Monthly Archives: June 2016

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How to Save 20% On Your Medical Bills

save money on your medical bills

Having a baby back in April has really tapped out some of our funds. I have pretty good insurance, but I still have a deductible to hit and an out-of-pocket. So once Baby arrived, I knew we would be receiving some medical bills. Then when he went into the NICU, I knew there would be even more.  I had built up our emergency fund as much as we could to help with the costs of delivery.  I even treated the delivery as a sinking fund to really help get us off on the right foot.  

I kept being told to call the hospital and enter into a payment plan, but did you know a payment plan doesn’t stop them from sending you to collections?

Yep!

The hospital can still send you to collections even when you have a payment plan with them.

It happened last year when J had to see a specialist. We entered into a plan at the hospital and then about 3 months later I received a collections notice. I was furious! I called the hospital and paid off my balance immediately.

Then I did research. With the changes in the healthcare laws, hospitals can send you to collections sooner and even if you’re making sizable payments.

This time I called to see what options I had. I learned that if you pay in full then you receive a 20% savings.

20%!

How to Save 20% On Your Medical Bills

I had 20% knocked off every single bill by paying them in full.

Even on the smaller ones that were less than $100. You just have to ask them for a discount if you’re willing to pay in full that day, over the phone. Then you actually have to pay them that day.

You can try to talk them down more, but I wasn’t successful once I got them down to 20%. I even tried with both hospitals and they stopped at 20%. But that was still a sizable savings in our books!

If you don’t have the money, then see if you could borrow it. It ended up being over $1,000 savings for J and I.  It would be well worth it, if you’re able to get the money in time.  I shared all about how we financially prepared for baby a few weeks back and it really helped out!

Just make sure you ask for the savings.  They aren’t going to willing knock off 20%. I would make sure to get a copy of a receipt or payment confirmation showing your account is satisfied.

How do you save on your medical bills?  Let me know!

Florida Vacation Recap – Baby’s First Time to the Beach

merelynne.com, meredith rines (7)

We got home this past weekend from Florida. It was such an amazing trip! Our house was about 100 feet from the beach and had killer views!  The whole top floor was a master suite, which my parents claimed! HAHA! We ate yummy seafood at every meal, we went shark fishing off the coast and J even cooked up our catch!  We spent majority of our time at the beach.  

merelynne.com, meredith rines (7)

I also spent a lot of time snuggling our little guy!  He did great at the beach!  We took him in the ocean and he liked it.  He didn’t cry at all, even when a wave came and splashed both of us in the face pretty good.  It didn’t even phase him.  I think it’s safe to say we have a water baby and I couldn’t be happier! I love water, I always have.

merelynne.com, meredith rines (7)

merelynne.com, meredith rines (7)

merelynne.com, meredith rines (7)

merelynne.com, meredith rines (7)

I saw on Pinterest this great idea of using a laundry basket at the beach and it worked great.  It was easy to haul stuff down, a non-sandy place for the baby to nap and if he was still sleeping when it was time to go in then I just picked it up.  His sleep was undisturbed!  I’m working on a post of all the beach tips and tricks we discovered.  It was a breeze travelling with him.

merelynne.com, meredith rines (7) merelynne.com, meredith rines (7) merelynne.com, meredith rines (7)

merelynne.com, meredith rines (7)

merelynne.com, meredith rines (7)
merelynne.com, meredith rines (7), first time to the beach

6 Tips to Stop Overspending

HowTo Stop Overspending

Want tips on how to stop overspending?  

Then you’ve come to the right place!  Let’s face it, overspending your money can really be a budget killer!  You work so hard at getting your budget just right.  You have money going towards bills, adding to your savings and helping your debt snowball.  But somehow you end up shorter then planned.  Your income didn’t go down, so what happened?

Well, I’ll tell you what happened.  You overspent!

You spent more money then you planned in one category of your budget.  If your like most people it’s usually towards food or going out.  

Now you’re bummed because you really thought you could have had your credit card paid off by now, but it’s going to take a few extra months since your money just keeps disappearing.  

I know… I know… emergencies come up and you can’t help those.  But that’s why you need to have an emergency fund started so when those unexpected expenses pop up they don’t ruin your monthly budget.  

I’ve come up with so super simple, easy to follow tips on how to stop overspending your money.  They’ve been working for J and I these past few months so I thought I would pass them along to you!

how to stop overspending

Use the Cash Envelope Method

I’m a huge fan of the cash envelope method.  I actually use it on a daily basis for us.  I created a simpler way to follow it by using debit cards instead of having to carry cash around with us, but you have to be pretty disciplined.  So I would recommend carrying cash with you the first few months until you get into a pretty good habit.

By using cash you can’t overspend – once you’re out of money then you’re done for the month.  Take cash with you into the grocery store and use your phone’s calculator to add up your grocery costs.  Just be sure to save some money for the added tax at the end!

Set your Bills to AutoPay

This has to be one of the easiest tasks to accomplish and can really save you time.  By setting your bills to AutoPay then you don’t have to worry about getting a check mailed on time.  But the best part is you can already count that money gone from your budget.  I like to set my auto debits to hit on payday.  That way I don’t even notice the money coming in or going out of my account.  

How To Stop Overspending

Find FREE activities to do with your family and friends

I created a great list of free things to do that do not cost a dime.  I’m sure you can add to my list.  Search out area attractions that don’t cost anything.  I know in bigger cities some museums and zoos will have a free pass day.  Make sure to take advantage of those events to save huge!

If you can’t find anything fun to do that is free then search out coupons before leaving the house.  I know if I’m eating out and don’t have a coupon then I can probably find one online before going.  By saving a little money when I do eat out or go shopping then I can make my dollar stretch even further.

Know why your overspending

This tip might be a bit harder to accomplish, but you should try!  Are you spending out of boredom or stress?  In college I would go shopping for new clothes around finals time.  I realized that it was because I was worried about the tests, but also because I was putting off studying (I know weird to be worried about how I would do while putting off studying, but I’m complicated!).  

Try to figure out how you’re feeling and see if there is something you could do other than spending money.

how to stop overspending

Cutback on the splurges

If you love your Starbucks coffee then try cutting back to only once a week.  Make your splurges seem more special by eliminating the daily spending.  If you love getting your nails done then try to only get them professional done when you’re leaving town or have an event.  

I like to get my nails done before I leave town for work trips or vacation.  That way I can treat myself to something special and feel good about myself on my trip.  But I try not to get them done when I’m going to be in town.  That expense isn’t necessary and it forces me to practice my manicure skills at home – for free!

Think big purchases over

Set a daily limit for any big purchases and if it’s over that limit then you have to wait 24 hours.  If something costs more than $100 then I like to think it over.  By giving myself 24 hours I can make sure I really want it and it gives me a chance to see if I can find a better deal somewhere else.  

There you have it, friends.  6 easy tips you can follow to stop overspending.  By cutting back on your splurges, you can really make a dent in your debt snowball or save up that emergency fund you’ve been meaning to start.

Why I Chose To Go Back To Work After Baby

Why I Chose To Go Back to Work After Baby

Choosing to be a stay at home mom or returning to work after baby is a hot topic. I wanted to show why I chose to go back to work after baby.  It’s a emotional topic, but one I think is talked about enough.

I work for my family’s accounting and financial planning firm. The reason we moved to my hometown was for me to work with my Dad to learn the ropes. The thought of deciding to quit my job wasn’t possible. I am needed and I love what I do. 

I actually only took a six week maternity leave from work. I probably could have taken longer, but I also knew that I had work to do. Because I work for my family, I was able to bring Baby with me. It was a nice transition for me. I was able to get the balance of getting work done, but was still able to see him across my desk.

Even if I didn’t work my family’s firm, I’m positive I would have returned to work. It’s more than a financial choice, too. Sure the double income is nice, but honestly money isn’t a primary factor.

After four weeks of being home with just Baby and dogs during the day, I found myself irritable with J. I needed that outlet of talking to someone, working on a bigger project and just feeling needed. Don’t get me wrong, every few hours when Baby woke up hungry I felt very much needed, but it’s different.

working mom

 

Why I Chose To Go Back to Work After Baby

 

I loved my time at home and know when he goes into a daycare in a few weeks I will be a complete mess. I will miss being home with my little boy. It’s crazy – I never saw myself as a mother when I was younger, but the moment I heard his cries and saw him for the first time I knew this is why I was put on this Earth. To be his mom.

And one thing that goes along with being a good mom is providing for him. I want to give him the moon.

My parents wanted to give my sister and I more than they were given as kids, and I want to give our son more than I was given.  Which is a pretty tall order.  I know I want our son to travel (mainly because J and I want to travel!), to accomplish his goals, go to college and not have to worry about the expense of school, and have fun while he’s young.  To do all of these things, both J and I need to work.  

We need to be saving our money, paying down debt and dreaming of places to travel as a family.  With eliminating one of our incomes, we could still accomplish these goals, but we would have to sacrifice a lot right now and it would take longer to get there.

Another reason I went back to work was to save my marriage.

J and I were talking the other night and came to a conclusion. If I wanted to be a stay at home mom then that would probably be the end to our marriage. I know it’s crazy to say that and probably a little hard. But I don’t know how to do that successfully.

I found myself in my short maternity leave depending on J too much. He was my source for socializing, my relief when I needed a break from sleepless nights, and my punching bag when I got frustrated. Not a literal punching bag, but I just became very short with him over the weeks and I know that wasn’t good.

It wasn’t fair to him and deep down I knew that.  I like to think that I’m a pretty logical person so I could see myself acting crazy, knew it was too much, but couldn’t stop myself.  I realize I was a hormonal mess, but I feel like it was more than that.  I needed an outlet and I couldn’t depend on my husband to provide that.  I needed to find my own.

Work is my outlet.  I get up, get dressed, put on make up and head out the door.  I sit at desk and work on projects for our clients.  I like answering questions and helping our clients solve their problems.  Before having a baby, I really felt my career was what I was supposed to do with my life – crazy, I know!

Why I Chose To Go Back to Work After Baby

Now it’s all about finding a balance.  A balance between putting J first, providing for our son by giving him the foundation he needs and having a fulfilling career.  I will reach that balance at some point and I know I will struggle along the way, but I know I am setting a good example for our son and will be able to do so much with him as he gets older.  

 

How to Teach Your Kids About Money

How To Teach Your Kids About Money

How to teach your kids about money – the simple way!

Learning financial responsibility at a young age is crucial. Your child should know how money works and how hard work is how you earn money. It doesn’t grow on trees and we need to be teaching our children that from very early on.

I feel like my parents did an excellent job teaching my sister and I all about money.  It wasn’t handed to us, we didn’t earn it for making good grades (that was expected), and we learned how to budget out money.

I love my Baby and I’m sure he will be spoiled, but he will know how to work. I think teaching finances to children will help them know hard work is how you get ahead and that everything will not be handed to you in life.

Here’s my top tips for how to teach your kids about money:

Make them work for it.

Don’t just fork over an allowance each week.  Setup chores for your kids to do to earn their money. I  recommend having a standard set of chores to even qualify.  For instance, their bed has to be made and their clothes put away each day before they can do an extra chores to earn money.  

Don’t give them an option.

Chores shouldn’t be optional.  The money is an added bonus, but because they live in your house and you provide their meals then they should be expected to pitch in.  

Let them pick their chores.

Sit your kids down and ask what they want to help with.  My sister and I volunteered for our paying gigs so we felt like we wanted to do them.  It will help your kids take ownership in their tasks.  

I had a friend with young kids tell me this story once years ago and it has stuck with me.  His little girl started fighting with him on drinking her morning milk.  So instead of fighting back or getting frustrated he came up with a plan.  He set out 3 cups each morning and her job was to pick the cup she wanted her milk in.  She had taken ownership over making that decision and she would happily drink her milk from her cup of choice.

Let you kids decide what they want to do and they will take pride in getting it done.

Pay per chore.

Set a price for each task and that’s how they get paid.  It’s not a set amount each week, but they have a maximum amount they can earn.  Now I know each amount may differ between families.  25 cents per chore may work for some while others may give more, but no matter the amount you decide – you need to set a price and stick with it.

For instance, taking the trash to the street is worth 50 cents and bringing the empty cans back is another 50 cents.  Emptying the dishwasher is worth $1.00 and so on.  If they skip a day or a week then they do not get compensated for it.

Teach them how to budget.

I like the idea of having a set amount that goes into savings each week.  You can make it a specific dollar amount or percentage.  I prefer percentage because it also teaches them math each week.  You can set what you think is reasonable, but they know before they can spend any of their earnings a certain portion must be put aside.

10% is a good amount to start with in my opinion.  It’s a round number so doing the math can be easy.  You can have 10% for savings and 10% for tithing to teach your children about charity.

By treating the savings and tithing as a bill they are learning how to budget their money before spending which can really help them understand how expenses work.

Just a few simple steps can really help teach your kids about money.  It doesn’t have to take hours each week, just a few minutes every Sunday and your kids are getting a budgeting lesson.  I love the idea of passing on the work ethic my parents instilled in me to our son.    

Breastfeeding vs. Formula Feeding

breastfeeding vs. formula feeding

Most moms would hope and plan on breastfeeding their little one. I know I did. If anyone asked what my plan was I always answered with a strong “Yes, I plan to breastfeed.”

I had been financially preparing for baby, but I had planned to breastfeed so long that I even took out the cost of formula from our budget. But things don’t always work out like you plan.

Breastfeeding was hard for me and Baby from day one. I didn’t know what I was doing and the lactation specialist at my local hospital stopped by for a 5 minute visit. She tried to help, she said she would be back, but we never saw her again. So I was out of luck on getting any help. A nursery nurse came by and said if I had a nipple shield. I was told in that quick 5 minute meeting with the specialist that the nipple shield was the last resort. I was telling the nursery nurse I preferred to not use one, but it was too late. She grabbed it, stuck it on to “show me just in case” then put Baby on it. I was so confused, tired and really out of it after my C-Section so I didn’t fight it.

I was never shown how to make my baby latch and after several failed attempts I started relying on the nipple shield. I thought my baby was getting enough breast milk, but he wasn’t. That’s why he ended up at the NICU at only 5 days old. He wasn’t getting enough to eat and my body wasn’t producing what he needed. One night it was about 2 am and I was in tears trying to soothe him. I tried breastfeeding, which would work for about 20 minutes then he would start crying and screaming again. I tried rocking him, holding him, bouncing him – everything I could think of. I was just praying that I could figure out what was going on.

breastfeeding vs. formula feeding

After hours and hours of this, I couldn’t wait until 9am. That’s when we went in for his first pediatrician appointment. 9am couldn’t come fast enough. I just remember watching the time tick by, it was going so slow and my baby was so unhappy. Looking back at it now, I probably should have called to get in first thing, but I didn’t know.

At his appointment the nurse weighed him, 5 pounds, 1 ounce. He dropped 15 ounces since he was born – 5 days ago. I knew that amount was a lot and I asked the nurse if it was normal, but I already knew the answer. The doctor came in and after a few brief questions about breastfeeding and his stools, we were rushed to the lab for blood to be drawn. I was told by the nurse to not go home or wait at the lab for results. I was to come immediately back to the doctor’s office.

10 minutes after leaving the lab, I heard the nurse’s phone ring. I heard her talk to the doctor and we were then given a bottle of formula and a bottle. I was told we could try breastfeeding, but he really needed to get his sugars up fast. They were way too low. Scared and worried, I skipped trying to breastfeed and just gave him the bottle. The doctor wanted him to drink an ounce. He gulped it down. So fast. I cried.

My baby was starving and I now saw how hungry he was. I hurt for him.

The doctor came back in once the rest of the results were in. He wasn’t in good shape. He was dehydrated, had jaundice, and his sugar level was too low. Not to mention losing over 16% of his body weight was more than worrisome. The doctor told me I had a few options at this point:

First, I could go to the hospital in town and be admitted to either the NICU or I could drive the hour and half to the next largest hospital and be admitted to the NICU there.

NICU?? My stomach sank and I squeezed my little boy closer to my chest. I asked her for her recommendation and she said the larger hospital would have the best support for breastfeeding. It was decided – J and I packed up a few nights worth of clothes and headed out of town as fast as we could.

Once we arrived, he was swooped up by the nurses while we scrubbed in. By the time we got back there he was already hooked up to all of these wires and monitors. They asked me the same breastfeeding questions and I answered the same way. But this time I knew he wasn’t getting enough and my emotions were running high.

The nurse requested a lactation specialist to come in. She worked with me on the pumping and breastfeeding. She said he had a good latch, but I need to work on my supply. So I was to breastfeed, formula feed then pump every 3 hours. I was exhausted after the first day. I couldn’t stop crying, I had barely slept and my body was hurting.

It was hard to breastfeed with all the wires and with him being so weak so I stopped. I would just pump after every feeding. When I had enough breast milk then I would feed him that instead of formula.

He was doing great, but my milk supply was not. I was barely getting an ounce throughout the whole 24 hours, but I was told to keep with it.

motherhood, unite in motherhood, baby boy, newborn

We came home and like clockwork I fed him a bottle of either formula or breastmilk then I would pump for 20 minutes. After 3 weeks, I was still barely getting enough for one bottle a day of breast milk.

He was doing good with the formula. He was growing and becoming more alert. He no longer screamed out of hunger, which was an amazing feeling to know I was keeping my baby satisfied.

I kept trying to pump breast milk. I read article after article, I talked to the lactation specialist once we were home, I tried herbs and teas and still nothing. My supply started dropping. Once he turned one month old I was getting less than 5 mL a day when I pumped. I tried an electric pump, a hand pump, manually expressing milk. I tried it all. I would sit with ice on my wrapped wrists from hand pumping all day.

I was stressing myself out, making myself sick. Yet, Baby was still thriving. He was still growing. At his one month checkup he weighed 8 pounds, 3 ounces. He was doing great! I was the one that was a mess.

I felt like I failed my baby because I couldn’t provide breast milk or breastfeed. But he saw me as the provider of food. He didn’t know the difference, he just knew that when he was hungry I was there to make him feel full.

I tried hard for over a month to provide my baby with breast milk and I couldn’t do it. In the end I had to realize my sanity was better than 5 mL of breast milk a day. So I stopped.

Now he is a 100% formula fed baby and he’s happy, healthy, and growing like a weed. Does it make me less of a parent because of it? No. If anything it makes me a damn good parent for trying to so hard and making sure my baby is taken care of.

Should I be judged for not breastfeeding? No. Absolutely not and neither should any other mom who decided to formula feed their child.

Should I feel guilty? No. I did the best I could and am still providing my child with nourishment.

My Favorite Carpet Refresher for Cheap

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My Favorite Carpet Refresher for Cheap

I shared a post way, way back when about a great DIY carpet cleaner. Well I’m still using it and have even developed new ways to use it to really get some fresh smelling, clean carpets at our house.

It’s no lie – three dogs do not mean you’ll have spotless carpets all the time. Especially when one of those dogs scares easily whenever a friend comes over, a car drives by or a leaf floats by the window.

I’ve developed tricks to score clean carpets.  Now with a little one here, we want to make sure our carpets are clean.  He’s months away from crawling, but we do need to do tummy time with him.  I don’t want to put him on any dirty carpets, actually I don’t even want to be walking around barefoot with dirty carpets – gross!

DIY carpet refresher

I’ve added a new carpet refresher to my DIY carpet cleaner and I just HAD to share it with you.

Before I vacuum I sprinkle my magic ingredient on the floor, well actually I go over the floor once just to get the bulk of the dog hair up. Then I add my magic ingredient…

Want to know what my favorite carpet refresher for cheap is?  It’s…

My Favorite Carpet Refresher for Cheap

Baking Soda

Yep! I sprinkle baking soda over my carpets, let it sit for about 10-15 minutes then vacuum it right up. Once that’s done I go over it with my DIY carpet cleaner in our steam cleaner.  Our carpets will be sparkling clean and smell so good by the end of it.

I’ve found that baking soda is a better carpet refresher than the store-bought brands. Plus, my fearful dog was actually allergic to the last few store brands I purchased. Poor pup would sneeze and her eyes would get all gunky for weeks afterwards. When I started using baking soda, her allergies went away.  That was a huge plus for me.  I couldn’t keep using products that were causing her problems…. that’s not a good dog mom.

I also know that with three dogs any vacuum cleaner just won’t do.  We have invested in a good pet vacuum for all of that dog hair.  I love the Hoover WindTunnel Pet Rewind Vacuum.  It works great for all of those hair nightmares.

My Favorite Carpet Refresher for Cheap

Here’s what I do, step-by-step for my DIY carpet refresher to really work:

Lightly vacuum my house to get most of the dog hair up
Sprinkle about 1 cup of baking soda on my carpets, depending on the size of your space you may need more or less
Wait 10-15 minutes, then vacuum the baking soda up
Fill my steam cleaner with my DIY carpet cleaner
Steam clean the carpets

I will say our house smells great and the carpets look wonderful.

Stain Tip:

If you have a stubborn stain then I recommend sprinkling a heavier amount of baking soda on the spot, then directly spraying white vinegar on top.

You might have done a science experiment using banking soda and vinegar in elementary school. The two ingredients will have a reaction when combined and they will bubble up. The bubbling is what you need to get the stain lifted.

Once you spray the vinegar on the baking soda, take a small brush and start scrubbing. Once you’ve scrubbed it out, simply vacuum up the remainder baking soda after it dries. Voila!  Stain is usually gone or a lot less visible.  I’ve had a few spots where I had to do this more than once to get completely gone.  But it was worth it because even the store-bought stain removers weren’t budging it.