Good Doggy, Expensive Doggy

16 week old Golden Retriever puppy scratching fleas with leg in motion on a white background "Missy"

My doggy hasn’t been doing so well.  And we are both paying for it.

Last year, I decided to opt out of the Banfield Care Plan (The veterinary practice that is set up in PetSmart stores) because I found it expensive and inefficient.

What I loved about it was that from a scheduling perspective, I was always on top of teeth cleaning, regular exams and shots.  What I didn’t like was that I could never make the numbers match in my favor.  I was paying around $30 per month (young healthy dog plan) and even with the built-in discounts, I was still paying too much for teeth cleanings and the like.  So, I decided to just put a little aside each month to account for the teeth cleanings (around $200+), along with the exam costs (around $40) and save a little cash.

And then along came a case of the cooties.  Ewww.

The poor pooch was diagnosed with a yeast infection that stretched from her ears to her bottom.  Between the exam, tests and prescriptions, her tab came to about $500.  Ouch.

The good news is that she seems to be getting better. A lot less itching, that is for sure.

So here are some takeaways from the pet adventure that never should have been:

  • When the dog is scratching incessantly, do not wait any longer than you have to, to arrange a vet visit.  We may have been able to keep this at a more manageable allergic reaction rather than the yeast infection from hell if I had recognized her issues earlier
  • Some prescriptions for dogs can be filled by pharmacies that cater to humans.  The anti-fungal medication the Vet prescribed would have cost $143 at Banfield.  It cost $88 at Sam’s Club.
  • I am my pet’s advocate.  I have to learn to listen to what she cannot say.
  • YouTube has a video on everything!  I had never heard of this yeast infection condition before known as malassezia.  Yet, lo and behold, I looked it up and there were many peeping-Tom videos of owners helping their dogs, inexpensively, through the recuperation.  Their secret to success?  Selsun Blue. I grabbed a coupon off coupons.com and bought a bottle from Target.  After she finishes her medication at the end of the week, I am taking her to a Dog wash and treating her to a bath.
  • Dog washes are only $10 at PetValue!  Not chasing the dog around the backyard to bathe?  Priceless!!!

Here is to wishing all of our pets a happy and healthy holiday season!

Mirror

 

 

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New Car Insurance — Finally

insurance

Last week (3 months late), I finally acted and switched my auto insurance from my current provider to Progressive.  I have had Progressive before and have no issues with being a member but ultimately, my choice was based on premiums.

Three months ago, my auto insurance renewed at $149.50 per month!  This was including a discount that came with a home policy as well.  That renewal was a $30 increase from the previous six months.  This increase was put in place even though 3 full years had elapsed since I had received a speeding ticket (boo!) and had dropped off my record. So when my company showed no interest in working with me, I looked at my options.

I checked with Esurance and Progressive, both with similar coverage and rates at $100 or less each month.  Even with losing the bundle discount from not keeping my home and auto policies with one provider, ultimately going with Progressive saves me about $60 per month. That is about $720 per year.

What I have noticed about insurance companies is that after a certain time, they increase rates exorbitantly. So, my charge is to drive safely, earn no violations and keep aware of better offers in the future.  For now, I am extremely pleased that I took care of this (belatedly, no doubt) and am getting my fall finances in order.

Next project, complete my tax returns!

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My Mint Account Reveals

Mint

I have been a Mint user for a little over a year now and I LOVE IT. I love it so much I wish, even now, that the moment I first heard Jean Chatzky mention it on an episode of Money Matters that I had gotten up off the sofa right then and created my account rather than waiting for as long as I did. I should have hopped up the moment she said it was FREE.

The love I have must be obvious because in one 2 minute conversation with my mom, I convinced her to try it and now, she LOVES IT, TOO. This is not to be taken lightly.  My mom doesn’t really have a lot of patience for sitting at a computer, gathering ALL of the account numbers, passwords, secret questions and the like. Plus, she has a healthy distrust of the internet and its ongoing security issues that get played out on the evening news.  Think Target, Home Depot, Ashley Madison, etc. But if you were to ask her, she would admit to those 2-3 hours of setting up her account as the best investment of time she can remember.

It has been a game changer for me.

Before Mint, I would check my accounts regularly at different websites plus kept a general spreadsheet of my income and expenses but never, had I had the ability and desire to gather ALL of my accounts in one place on my own.  I think this largely had to do with not fully understanding the concept of net worth at the time.

With Mint, having almost all my accounts in one place takes allows me to know my net worth, my credit score, my due balances and most importantly, my financial trends. It is the TRENDS function that has me so excited right now.

I was playing around with the TRENDS function in a way I hadn’t before and was able to determine how I have been spending my money by category.  I was particularly interested in the area of Food and Dining – specifically the Groceries sub-category. With Mint, I can compare trends over time.  The options range among last seven days, last month 3 months, 12 months or the comparison can be customized for a particular investigating.

I beat myself up a lot because of the amount of money I spend on groceries each month. We are eaters in the Thrifty Image household. We like to eat, Mirror Image likes for me to cook and I take joy in our being able to come together over a delicious meal without the extra salt, fat or costs of eating out. But I really felt that the monthly costs were pretty high. So I took a look and compared my costs over the last 6 months with the previous six months then did the same with the year to date.

What a pleasant surprise!

I have spent approximately $1,000 less these last six months than I did in the previous six months on Groceries. And I know why. The Water Challenge in January and the current Meat Free March challenge. I have been perplexed by what has felt like excessive spending yet, the overall food category has gone done overall. Hurrah!

This is just one of the ways Mint helps me manage my money and gives me the tools to explore not just the money but better money management.  With all of the information in one place, it is so much easier to manage the money and understand the nuances. With Mint I see:

  • Cash (Savings) Account
  • Investment (403b, 401K, Roth IRA, Schwab One, Betterment)
  • Credit Card Accounts
  • Housing Value (provide by Zillow)
  • Vehicle Value
  • Loans (Mortgage)

Accounts can be added (say you get a new credit card or open up a Betterment account) or they can be closed or deleted (perhaps your credit card number was stolen or your car was totaled and it doesn’t exist as an asset anymore). The only account I cannot currently see is Mirror Image’s Private College 529.  According to Mint, there needs to be a pent-up demand and I guess I am the only one with that account.  Another reason to transfer that account over to my State College Savings Plan!

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What we Should All Know

Lisa Simpson Basics

Mirror Image is 11 years old.  As young as she is, it still feels like she has been around a lot longer than she has.  So sometimes I am surprised by the questions she asks me.  Questions that have answers that seem obvious to me but apparently, haven’t brushed up against her world yet.

That got me thinking about how many people, myself included, often miss or just don’t know some obvious basic things. No matter how loudly our parents, our church leaders or Suze Orman yells them from the rooftops.  So below are some Wednesday morning thoughts or some basics to live (better) by:

Money

  • Work for it
  • Save more of it
  • Invest It
  • Respect it
  • Talk about it
  • Learn more about it
  • Manage it
  • Don’t let it determine self-worth

Home

  • Research it
  • Clean it
  • Protect it
  • Maintain it regularly

Health & Hygiene

  • Wash hands
  • Cover mouth when coughing/sneezing
  • Stay home when sick with the flu
  • Clean – tone- moisturize
  • Brush 2x/day
  • Self examine
  • Have medical insurance
  • Exercise daily
  • Eat more vegetables
  • Drink more water

Relationships

  • Be respectful
  • Say please
  • Say thank you
  • Flirt
  • Be honest
  • Be enthusiastic
  • Give hugs
  • Accept hugs
  • Genuinely listen
  • Apologize
  • Accept apologies
  • Refuse abuse

Joy & Happiness

  • Pursue it
  • Be responsible for your own
  • Look up
  • Share it
  • Give to others
  • Read EVERYTHING
  • Dance whenever you hear your favorite song
  • Have many favorite songs

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What are some other basics I may have missed?

How Frustrating

Walmart Pylon Sign
Frustrating…]

I had an experience at Walmart recently that left me extremely frustrated.  Expensively frustrated.

While I know that Walmart isn’t perfect (no business is), I have never been anti Walmart.  I have always found it a reasonable place to go for inexpensive items I need for my life.  That could be flashlights, food, beauty items, etc.  In fact, in August, I purchased a laptop and printer from walmart.com for Mirror Image to use now that she has transitioned to Middle School.

So it was for said printer that I returned to Walmart for replacement ink cartridges.  I purchased $42 worth of HP printer products from the local Walmart.   I went home and…nothing.  The printer wouldn’t read the cartridges. While disappointing, I knew that I had a 30 day exchange window and would try again.

Boy was I wrong.

7 days later, I am at the Customer Service (hah!) counter having a disturbing conversation with an assistant manager about how cartridges could not be exchanged if opened. How do I know that it does or does not work if I can’t open it? Sorry, I can’t do it. Fine, what is the resolution, then?  I spent $42 here in good faith expecting to get a product to use as advertised. Walmart doesn’t refund or exchange cartridges that are open.  I can’t help you. Who can?  My manager and he is not here.  Fine, I will wait while you call him.  I can’t do that – I don’t have his number.  Blah, blah, blah…

This circular, fruitless conversation went on for a loooong time.  My request for resolution and feedback from someone in charge yet, with no authority to do anything except say silly unhelpful words and repeat that she cannot contact her manager.

Funny. When I was in retail, I could always contact my manager if there was a problem.  I would think Walmart has more problems than most considering how omnipresent they are.

So, in addition to paying $42 for products I can never use, I have learned a lesson. I can start shopping other places instead –   like Target or Amazon.  In fact, the same black & white and color cartridges I got from Walmart for $42, I purchased for $28 from Amazon.  With FREE shipping. I lost some money in the short term with Walmart but will recoup it in lower prices going forward with other retailers.

So yes I am disappointed but, no one is forcing me to continue to shop at Walmart.  And I won’t.

 anti Walmart

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