Thursday, January 28, 2010

Teeth, Continued

In my last post (was it really that long ago?) I talked about how Dear Child had been to the dentist and lost yet another tooth.  What I didn't mention was that the dentist said he wanted her to have an ortho consult before we booked her upcoming dental surgery!

Accordingly, on Tuesday morning DC and I went to see an orthodontist in her dentist's office (how convenient!) and $35 later the news was that we would extract fewer teeth than originally contemplated.  There's no question that she comes by all her dental issues very honestly.  I blame it all on my father!  He had terrible teeth when I was little.  They were very crooked and so badly abscessed that, when they were pulled, the dentist refused to take more than a few at a time for fear of the infection spreading through his bloodstream and killing him.

It wasn't that he didn't take care of them.  He just had poor teeth and the crowding made cleaning much more difficult.  He grew up through the Depression (in farm country) and orthodontics were just unheard of in that time and place.  Eventually they all came out, he was fitted with dentures and things were much better.

Unfortunately, I inherited the poor teeth and also had a huge mismatch between the size of my teeth and the size of my jaw.  I had a (totally useless) appliance as a child, ortho complete with extractions and headgear as a young teen and ortho with jaw surgery and further extractions as an adult!

DC's oldest brother also had the same pattern of decay, decay around fillings, crowns and loss of crowned teeth that DC is currently going through.  Luckily, his teeth were quite straight and we never did ortho for him but he's only 30 and has dentures already.  (The other 2 adult kids had a normal number of cavities that didn't continue to decay.  My grown daughter needed about $4,500 of ortho in her mid-teens, however.)

Basically, the plan for my youngest daughter is to remove the top 4 baby incisors and shave down the sides of the eyeteeth (canines) to allow as much room as possible for the 4 adult teeth waiting to erupt.  There will likely still be some crowding, which could be eliminated by pulling the eyeteeth as well.  However, that would increase the chance that she would develop an underbite (because the pressure of the upper lip on the erupting teeth would tend to push them back) and we're trying to avoid that.

She's lost both of what will be lower bicuspids on one side and the lower canine is starting to drift backwards slightly, opening up a little room on the bottom.  They plan to take one of the matching teeth on the other side to allow that canine to drift back slightly as well.  When the bottom ones come in, the ortho feels they'll be fine.  They will attach a space maintainer to the 6 year molar on the one side though, to limit the amount of movement.

Finally, they'll fill all four of her 6 year molars, the only permanent teeth she has fully in to date.  Part of the problem with having so much decay in baby teeth is that the permanent ones tend to come in with decay "factory-installed" or to begin to decay while they are only partly erupted (with the decay starting under the portion of gum still covering part of the tooth, where you can't reach with floss or a toothbrush).

The biggest decision is really the material to use.  Amalgam (which does contain small amounts of mercury) is the cheapest and hardest.  If the fillings are still small enough we can also do them in a white material that doesn't contain mercury but isn't fully covered under our dental plan.  I'm seriously considering spending an extra $400 or so to have the more esthetically pleasing fillings.  For one thing, I have a mouth full of mercury based amalgam fillings and I'd rather not have them myself, let alone inflict them on DC.  I'm not at all sure that they're safe over the long term.  But it is more money and the surgery itself is expensive.  I don't have a final amount yet but it will probably be on the close order of $3,000 plus the extra charge for the white fillings.

It's a lot of money and we're in debt already.  But it's a long-term investment in DC's mouth.  If we can reduce or eliminate the need for braces down the line that could easily save us a $5,000 orthodontic fee  (a net savings of $2,000).  Plus, having the fillings done under general anaesthetic eliminates the need for 4 separate office visits and numerous shots of freezing.  This is important when you consider that she's terrified of needles.  I might get her to the office okay for the first filling but the next 3 visits would be horrendous.

So, how are we going to pay for this?  We have a dental plan that covers a lot of the cost but we're responsible for the rest  (the $3,000 figure I used being our portion).  They will work out a payment plan but it's between $600 and $1,000 per month if I remember correctly from the last time.  Luckily my Hubby has had a couple of good commissions recently that will be paid to him over the next few months and that's where the money will come from.  It means we won't be going deeper in debt, which is a good thing.  On the other hand, it means we won't be able to use that money to pay down debt, which is not so good.

I was told that it usually takes about a month to get in for the surgery.  So I pointed out that DC will be out of school for the duration of the Olympics and asked if there was any possibility of getting her in then (as the end of the Olympics is about a month from now).  They're going to check and get back to me.  It would certainly be easier to do it when she's off school anyway, rather than have her off for 2 1/2 weeks, go back and then have to miss several days.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Money, Teeth and Computer Viruses

I'm plugging away, paying bills as I get money (whether from work or Hubby when he gets paid or wherever).  The problem is that sometimes it takes me a couple of days to get money from Point A to Point B.  When Hubby gets paid he transfers money to me for bills but that goes into my old bank account.  I take cash out from there, then have to physically go into the credit union when it's open to deposit it so I don't have a hold on the money.  Unfortunately, the credit union is on a major street that doesn't allow street parking 3 to 6 pm and where it's very busy the rest of the time.  So, it's challenging to get there and be able to find a place to park.

This past week I took some of the money out in cash and used telephone banking to make another payment from the old bank account to my MasterCard.  I finally got the cash into the credit union the other day and made some more payments today.  First of all, I had to take care of my internet bill, which I somehow forgot at the end of last month.  Then I put money towards Home Depot and (yet again) MasterCard.

So far with the MasterCard I've paid off all the stuff I charged in the Okanagan and then made two more payments of $90 each.  So I've reduced the balance to just a little below the amount on last month's statement (because the bedframes were just over $170).  However, the interest charge won't be added to the account for another day or so.  That will push me up by $90 odd but I'll hit it again next week with at least $90.  The net result will be that I won't have reduced my balance over the previous month but I'll have paid for everything I bought.

I've also had some other expenses this week.  Dear Child went back to the dentist and he pulled another tooth that wasn't supposed to come out yet.  It was the crowned tooth next to the one that already came out and its roots had also resorbed.  The tooth was so loose that it was just hanging by a thread.  A dab of topical freezing and the dentist was able to get it out with his fingers.  That set me back by about $50, including the xray.  And then I let my youngest son talk me into buying more RAM for my laptop.  I only had 1 MB, which is really low.  So $60 later I have 2.5 MB.  At the same time he cleaned up my computer, which had acquired a really annoying trojan that was masquerading as a virus checker.  I'm still not sure how I got it.  It just showed up as I was reading blogs a couple of nights ago and was popping up very realistic windows about how this, that and the other file was infected, and did I want to run my antivirus.  I really couldn't make a move without several popups appearing and I didn't want to do anything that involved logging in anywhere using any of my passwords.  Hooray for my techie son!  Well, both my techie sons, since the older one actually works in the IT field, but the younger son was the one that was available.

On top of all that, work has been insane and I've been trying to put in extra hours.

So, that's been my life this week.  How was yours?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Steps Forward and Back

I had some ambitious goals for 2010.  My first payday for the year was yesterday.  How am I doing?

First of all, I took one fairly big step backwards at the end of December when we were going away to our rural house.  I bought discontinued bedframes at IKEA for $170.98 and charged it on my MasterCard.  Yes, the card I've barely used in over a year, the same card that just increased my credit limit by $3,000.  I'm really glad I bought them though.  We've been sleeping on mattresses on the floor at the house and it's not that comfy.  Having the bedframes will really help.  We got them to the house in our car by putting down half the back seat and running them up between the front seats.  There wasn't time while we were there to put them together but I hope to do them on the next trip.

Then we were at the house for the weekend and I charged groceries and birthday presents for Dear Child to the tune of $159.14.  I did have money left in my chequing account but I thought that a cheque I'd written for $162 hadn't cleared yet.  I didn't want to end up bouncing a cheque, so I charged it all.  Turns out, luckily, that the cheque had cleared and I just hadn't noticed.

So, the net result was that my card balance went up from $5,868.52 to (gulp) $6,198.64, almost $200 over my old limit and $330.12 higher in total.  And it will be worse in a couple of days when the interest hits my account.

However, there is also good news on the horizon.  First of all, I got a raise!  Okay, it's not huge, just 2% but there were no raises last year so this is good.  I've paid the $159.14, plus paid the water and made a payment to Home Depot. Oh! Oh, oh, oh!!!! I almost forgot!  I paid off the first Home Depot payment plan on December 31st!  That's one of my goals for the year (because it was due January 1st).

I also took a big step toward another one of my goals today.  I had to go in to the credit union to activate my new, permanent debit card (the temporary card they gave me when my card was skimmed was only good for 30 days) so I opened my Tax Free Savings Account at the same time and put $50 into it.  My goal this year is to get it up to $1,300 by the end of the year.  Yes, I know that you can put in $5,000 per year (and that my eligible amount for this year is $10,000 because unused amounts carry forward from year to year) but let's be realistic.  It'll be a stretch to make my goal.  There's no way I'd ever be able to put $416.66 away each month, unless I did it at the expense of paying down debt.  How dumb would that be?  Ooh, I'll earn maybe 2% on $5,000 of savings while paying 17% on $6,000 worth of debt.  Don't think so.  On the other hand, having an extra grand or so in an account that can be accessed if I need it is a good add-on to the ever-underfunded Emergency Fund.

While I was at the credit union I deposited cash to my rural credit union account (via the ATM).  Why cash?  Well, I pay to order cheques and they take a minimum of 5 business days to clear from the one credit union to the other.  Cash should clear once the amount of the deposit is verified the next business day.  The cash was for all the rural set-asides I've created.  That includes the electric bill, property tax, garbage pickup and fuel oil.  When next December rolls around and I need another tank of fuel oil the money will all be there.  How grown up and responsible is that?

So, all in all, I'm doing fairly well in the financial area.  And I've been walking for half an hour 5 days out of the past 7 (yet another goal).

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Starting 2010 the DIY Way

Well, as I was writing in the response I made to RivkA's comment to my previous post, I have to decide whether or not we're going to replace Dear Child's floor once we get access back to her room (since right now it's taped shut with clear tarp over the door, closet and dresser).  I think it will probably cost about $400 for both the DriCore and the flooring itself.  Oh, and baseboards.

It's certainly the right time to do this while all the furniture (except the dresser) is already out of the room.  And there's no question that the horrible carpeting that was here when we moved in should go.  Even if it was nice carpeting I'd want to replace it with wood because of my asthma.  And, believe me, it's not nice.  I had a very large straw mat I got in Fiji probably 25 years ago down over most of the exposed floor surface before and a small sheepskin right by the bed.  Wood would be so much nicer.  Wood is good.

However, it's money I hadn't planned on spending and it would end up going on yet another no interest payment plan at Home Depot.  Now, it's true that it looks like my Hubby's commissions are picking  up somewhat and he has a big job or 2 in process right now but probably won't see money for them for a couple of months.  It doesn't make sense to wait until the money is  in hand though from the point of view of getting our daughter back into her room.  And getting our living room, kitchen and dining table back to normal.

I also have to think about how long it's going to take to actually do the floor.  I'm not the fastest person at these things but I do a good job.  Probably a couple of evenings for the DriCore and about the same for the floor (although if I go with engineered I'll be gluing it, which takes longer and also needs an extra day to dry).  I don't want to do the baseboards.  I hate the mitred cuts.  If my Son-in-Law will cut the baseboards that will be okay.  He did a pretty good job of them in the girls' room upstairs.

So I think I've rationalized myself into an additional reno job over and above the ones I really need to do around here (like finishing the bathroom or redoing my kitchen cabinets, or putting in the tile floor).  And this is after I laid the floor in the girls' room with my Eldest Daughter's able assistance (also not something that had been on my list).  I'd ask her to help me with this one in exchange but I feel guilty about asking someone who's 8 months pregnant to help lay a floor.  My Hubby is totally not handy with renos and my S-in-L has more than enough renos to do in his part of the house right now.  Sigh.

And from a financial viewpoint I do worry to a certain extent about the effect of taking on additional debt just as I'm paying off some from last year.  It's not that I'm worried we won't have the money to pay it off when it comes due.  I'm actually pretty good at that.  It's just that I hate to be moving in the "wrong direction" if you know what I mean.  I guess I just have to be really vigilant about paying other stuff when I'm supposed to, setting aside money for things that will come due later, putting that little bit away every week into the Emeergency Fund, etc. etc.  You know, all those good habits I said I was going to develop this year.

And I did pay off the first of the 2 Home Depot amounts.  On time.  The next one is due in February and will be more challenging but I'm sure we can do it.