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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A Look into Bizarro Land

Bizarro

For the past 8 years, I have lived, with Mirror Image, in a neat little cottage in an established, if not a little worn, quiet neighborhood.  I have had 3 cars since moving in (future post!) and have had 4 different full-time jobs as well.

We have bought clothes and furniture. We’ve donated clothes and furniture. We repainted rooms, replaced plumbing and hosted more delicious, laughter-filled family gatherings than I can remember.  I have exercised religiously in that house, and eaten full sheets of homemade white chocolate chip cookies on the living room sofa.

Since I moved in, I have had 7 different mobile phones in that time from 4 different carriers, while Mirror Image has had 2 phones from discount provider FreedomPop. We have also watched tv with 5 different cable packages from 2 different cable companies.

We have enjoyed 2 beautiful loving dogs and sadly, lost one.

I have also saved, consistently and sacrificially,  to various accounts like – Mirror Image’s College 529, Roth IRAs, Emergency Funds, Vacation Funds and several mutual funds through Schwab. This is in addition to my 401K savings throughout the years.

This is what I do.  Purposefully and frugally I save 25-30% of my annual salary. I also donate another 11%.  This means I sometimes don’t purchase what others have.  At least not right away. It means putting my future ahead of my present. And I am just fine with that.

And then there is Mirror Image. With her constant awareness of trends and commercials advertising STUFF, she is more interested in consumerism. Her questions and desires have made me wonder lately, what would my life look like if my savings and donations budgets were less or zero. So I decided to turn it into a game… These are some game titles I liked

  1. The NO Vision Board
  2. A Game of Spends
  3. The Walking Consumer
  4. Clue(less)

Here is how I would “win” the game:

My cute, relatively easy to clean cottage with an $867 mortgage payment would be replaced with either a 3,000 sq ft house or a kick-butt downtown loft at minimum $2,000 monthly payment

My gently used, new to me Nissan Rogue with no monthly payment, would be replaced with a 2017 Audi Q7 starting at $54,800. So even with a 20% down payment, that’s a $1200 payment each month for 3 years.  That’s only if I don’t add any upgrades.

Mirror Image would be carrying the new iPhone potentially priced at about $1,000 and combined with a $50 phone plan from one of the major carriers.  By the way, ALL of the classmates have the latest cell phones (she reminds me daily). This would be in place of her FREE plan she has now with FreedomPop.

Not to be outdone by my kid, I would have the latest Samsung Galaxy priced at about $700.  Also with a $50 phone plan.  This would be instead of the $10 plan I have and love now with Republic Wireless.

We would travel first class when we fly.  Because “why not?” So, conservatively $1,000 each domestic round-trip ticket.

I would buy more clothes to fill the now gigantic closets of the new house/loft.  Our clothing allowance would rise from around $200 each August and December to coincide with Back to School and Christmas shopping to at least $200 per month to accommodate our new social life, fashion seasons debuts and those times when we realize, after perusing our bulging closets, we have nothing to wear. I would also need new clothes to accommodate my anticipated weight gain because…

Our restaurant budget will increase. Instead of going out to eat an average of less than once per month, we would likely go out to eat 3-4 times per week. spending roughly $50 per meal would be a conservative guess.

I would also need to hire a housekeeper to clean the larger home. A dog walker because I will be too busy eating out and showing off my fancy clothes to do it. I would need to allocate more money to hire a travel agent to handle my upclassed travel. I would also need to pay someone to clean my car weekly because a beautiful machine like the Audi Q7 should be kept in tip-top shape.  And people in my new neighborhood don’t wash their own cars.

Did I really ‘win’?

I see the appeal in the trappings.  In fact, before having Mirror Image, I lived some of these trappings and yet still saved regularly.  Being a SINK for me meant being RICH. Fancy travel, shiny cars, big house with double car garage (with only one car) and lots and lots of eating out with friends.

But that is not my life anymore and now the price of a fancy meal isn’t the meal cost but a lack of investment in the future. Paying for that fancy car means not being prepared for job losses during a fickle economy. Buying more of those important things means maintaining, insuring and worrying about them.

I think I will just have to accept the richness of my life as it is. Great kid, safe house, dependable car, good health and access to awesome homemade food. I will accept these genuine riches as I build my future instead of paying to look rich in the present.

Thrifty Image Mirror

What would your game title be?

Taking Financial Advice – Credit Cards

Welcome to my new series – Taking Financial Advice –  where I share financial or money  advice I have been given and give feedback on how that worked out for me.

 

Credit-Card-Logos

For years I have operated with one credit card.  Discover Card with 1% cash back. This wasn’t always the case. Before aligning myself with the one card rule, I had several cards. An American Express from my college days. 2-3 store cards that I got in order to receive the in-store purchase discount and a random Visa that showed up in my mail one day.

But then I started listening to a professional money-head, probably Suze Orman, and the advice was, to have just one card and pay it off at the end of the month.  So I did. And I was always pleasantly surprised to receive a credit that I could apply to my future balances one the credit reserve was large enough.  I see now, while not exactly harmful advice, not stellar advice either – at least not for me.

What I did not do was research.  I took some advice from someone “in the know” and reaped the rewards – or rather lack of rewards – from that advice.

What went wrong?

#1 Closing established accounts

Closing my oldest credit accounts stripped me on my history of long-term credit relationships. This is a ding on credit reports.

#2Higher credit use ratio

Also, because I only had one card, the likelihood of having an unattractive credit utilization rate was ongoing.

Now in all honesty, I was not paying pay attention to my credit reports back in the day and had never heard of FICO and had no idea what terms like Credit Utilization or “balance-to-limit-ratio” even meant. That wasn’t the money-head’s fault.  I should have known or should have researched the technicalities behind the advice. This just goes to show that everything is an iceberg.  The advice that floats on the top and, the information that is swimming under the surface.

#3 Sacrificing rewards opportunities

This is the one that is most disheartening.  I have left so many rewards and points on the table because I thought I was taking the smarter, nobler steps of keeping just one card and paying off that card at the end of each month.  The truth is, I could have still been smart, and pay my balances in full at the end of each month. But just with more cards.

The lesson for me is, listening to advice is great and necessary.  There are so many resources that know or can offer more information than any one of us can know on our own in a single lifetime.  The real problem was not in taking the advice but in not doing more research or understanding what my real needs were and what opportunities I could benefit from.

And when it comes to our finances, only we care the most about them.

And because I care about how I can arrange my finances for things like excellent credit scores, fun vacations and cash back, I have new cards that I LOVE and these are the rewards that I received when I signed up:

Chase Sapphire – 50,000 points (can convert to free hotel nights)

IHG – 60,000 points (about 6 free hotel nights + plus a FREE night each year on my birthday)

Southwest Rapid Rewards – 50,000 points (2 round-trip tickets to Seattle for Me and Mirror Image to visit my father)

Chase Freedom – $150 Cash Back

Barclays MasterCard – $250 Cash Back

And I still pay my bills, in full, at the end of each month so as not to pay finance or interest fees.  And with these cards, as with my beloved Discover Card, I can get cash back or points/ rewards on the things I would have purchased anyway.

Thrifty Image Mirror