Monday, July 29, 2013

The plastic debt is on the rise

I have passed the halfway point in my maternity leave and the end is in sight, which makes me sad to leave my babies but also relieved that we'll have two incomes again.  It's been stressful trying to live off of one income and our meager savings.  We've already wiped out the small savings account we had built up and are now in the "preserve our cash so we can pay rent/ put everything else on the credit card" mode to make it through to the end of my leave. 

Now, I'll be honest here, I never stopped using my credit cards through this whole debt reduction process.  I know most debt gurus would slap my hand for that but my goal in this process was not just to pay off my debt, it was also to learn how to manage finances (including debt) wisely.  I have come a long way in my relationship with my debt and credit cards.  I have one card that I use regularly and pay off, in full each month.  I only put charges on it that have been budgeted for and that I have the cash to pay for.  I also cash in the points earned on the card for gift cards for things like groceries or pet supplies.  I also have a card that carries a balance that I am slowly paying off.  This was the card I used to do a balance transfer to get all my credit card debt to a 0% interest rate.  Since we are now out of savings and putting everything that we don't have to pay cash for on the card, the balance is rising and I will not be able to pay it off in full.  After all this time, the credit card debt is rising instead of falling and I'm not happy about it.

Even though I knew going into the maternity leave that we would have to accrue some debt to make ends meet, this makes me very nervous for several reasons.  The most obvious one is that I've worked so hard over the past two years to pay off debt, going back into debt just sucks!  I keep reminding myself that my goal this year was NOT debt reduction.  The goal is to hold the line and not go further into debt than I was at the beginning of the year ($49,267 total debt) which is still totally doable but doesn't make me feel much better.

The second reason it makes me nervous to be relying on the credit card is that in my exhaustion and time strapped state, I find that I'm slipping back into some old bad habits.  Things like grabbing food on the go, making poor choices when I'm rushing through the grocery, and generally just not paying attention to where I can get a better price for things are all adding up.  Plus the old attitude of shrugging these small amounts off because they are so small, surely I won't have any trouble paying them off later is also sneaking back into my wallet.  

Lastly, because S and I are now a combined financial unit, there are times where he has to use my credit card to keep our cash preserved.  I wouldn't worry about it except that he and I are not on the same page financially speaking.  I have been diligently hacking away at my debt and revamping my attitude towards spending and debt.  He, on the other hand, has always lived paycheck to paycheck and doesn't easily recognize the difference between needs and wants.  He also lacks the ability to put off purchases until there's a better time to buy something either because we have more money available or because there's a better price.  He's slowly making changes towards a more fiscally fit lifestyle but there are still times where he spends unnecessarily and to see those expenses show up as credit card debt makes me uneasy.

For now the best I can do is keep reminding myself (and S) of the importance of only purchasing what is absolutely needed to get through till I return to work.  We will have to make paying off the card our first priority once we have two incomes coming in again.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The medical bills are rolling in

Between the pre-baby trip to the ER and admittance to the hospital for pre-term labor, the birth and recovery of the twins, and the ER trip with the little twin, we've got a mountain of medical bills piling up!  We added the boys to S' insurance and it took awhile to receive their cards.  That means that a good number of the bills we have sitting here haven't been paid out by the insurance company. I'll be spending the next few days calling each bill to report the insurance information because I sure as heck don't want to be on the hook for the full amount of these bills!

In the meantime, I'm tracking each medical event in a spreadsheet.  This way I can easily add information about when we receive the bill for that medical event, the amount owed, and I can double check to make sure the insurance company has paid out their portion of the bill.  This may seem like overkill to some but I've had some past experience dealing with medical bills and I don't think any amount of organization is too much when dealing with insurance companies!  Besides that, my time these days is severely limited, I need to be able to pick up a task for a few minutes and understand where I left off so staying organized is key.

I also realize that some of these medical bills are going to be too much to pay outright and we will have to set up payment plans.  I've added a line item in my debt counter on this blog, once I've got a clear idea of what we owe after insurance I'll be adding the medical debt to the list.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Child care, the hunt continues

Having no clue how to go about finding childcare, I originally turned to my two most trusted resources, Google and Craigslist.  I easily found a number of childcare centers around town on Google and toured several before becoming completely overwhelmed and frustrated at the high cost ($700-925 per week)!  I also found a number of nannys but that's even less financially realistic so I didn't even bother setting up interviews.  What I couldn't find were in-home private daycare facilities that had open spots for two infants and I knew they would be the most affordable option.  None of the in-home centers that were on Craisglist, Google, and could take the boys.  After several weeks of searching, I was starting to feel a little hopeless when I finally struck gold... 

One of the in-home centers I contacted was run by a woman who also heads up a committee for the State that manages all of the licensed child care providers.  Even though she didn't have openings she pointed me in the right direction.  It turns out the State website has a search engine of all child care providers and to make it even easier, I can narrow the search to only in-home providers!  I've spent the day calling every provider within the area and have set up several interviews for next week.  I'm hopeful that one of these in-home providers will fit what S and I are looking for at a price that won't sink our already stretched budget!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Is this child care or highway robbery?

For the time being S and I have decided he should stay at his job which means I'm starting the search for child care options for the twins for when I return to work.  I already had a vague idea of the monthly costs by asking friends what their child care cost and I also checked into a couple places prior to the babies arrival.  Now that the real hunt is on I am finding the costs for the "average" day care center are higher than I had expected.

One of the places I called, which is the closest to my home, talked all about their fancy curriculum, facilities, teachers, and finally asked me when I'd like to come in for a tour.  Thankfully, I went ahead and asked about the tuition before wasting my time... $925 per week.  I about choked when she told me.  This was the highest cost for a center I have found but even the lowest priced center is equal to one of our take-home pay!  I don't want to sound like I don't want the best for my children but geeze, how much curriculum does an infant need?!  Did my parents worry about my chances of getting into college when they were picking out my infant care?!  

Seriously though, I've heard that private, in-home care is more affordable than centers but so far have not been able to locate many or any with availability.  I'm trying hard to stay positive and to keep in mind that somehow people make ends meet but right now all I see are the HUGE extra expenses brought on by the babies.  That's all I've got for now...

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Life with twin newborns

Today is officially three months since my last posting and it also marks the day that my twins would have been due... if they hadn't come a month early!  My baby boys were born on June 6th, healthy, happy, and adorable (of course, I'm partial but I'm posting pictures here to prove that they are indeed the most adorable babies ever).

I'm sure you're asking what's been going on in my life for the last three months!  Besides the birth of the boys and the inevitable sleep deprivation, feeding, diapering, bathing, and general baby juggling, quite a lot has been going on!  Since this blog is a documentation of my financial journey I'll try to stick with the financially related items but you'll have to forgive my frazzled mommy brain if I go off on tangents...

The last 6 weeks of the pregnancy and the first couple weeks of the boys life were rough both emotionally and financially.  At 30 weeks I ended up being admitted to the hospital for pre-term labor, aside from being scary it was a hospital admittance co-pay that I hadn't factored in and when I was put on bedrest for the next couple weeks it also meant no paycheck/ no leftover money for saving.  We were fortunate in that the pre-term labor stopped, everything looked healthy and on track and my doctor allowed me to return to work on a part time schedule.  Of course, in all my financial planning I had been thinking I would be pulling in a full time paycheck until 38 weeks.  So that was another big hit to the financial plan  that would get us through maternity leave without going further into debt.

At 34 weeks an ultrasound showed that one of the babies wasn't growing very well anymore (no big surprise there, I was huge by that point and couldn't imagine being able to stretch any further so I knew they must be pretty cramped for growing room)!  The docs went into super monitoring mode and decided I should be induced at 36 weeks since I was also showing signs of preeclampsia.  The boys were both thriving and healthy at birth so we got to bypass the NICU, which was a big concern of mine for multiple reasons and would have meant more hospital co-pays that we weren't planning on. However, being that they were so small at birth (the little guy was 4 pounds and 9 ounces and the "big" boy was 6 pounds and 7 ounces), the car seats that we had purchased cheaply used from a friend with twins wouldn't work and S had to run out and buy new car seats for smaller babies. 

Within the first week home, we had a little choking incident with the small guy (which he recovered from so don't worry!) and took an expensive ambulance ride to the ER.  We've also had regular check-ins with the doctor to monitor growth, all of which have a price tag I had never anticipated in the financial planning stage.  And even though I stocked up on a bazzilion diapers and supplies, we have already made plenty of runs to the store for more stuff that I didn't know we needed in advance!

The bottom line is that, all my careful financial pre-baby planning didn't factor in a lot of the expenses we have already incurred and it's only the first month!  I'm chocking it up to my inexperience at being a parent.  I'm learning quickly that life with twins (or any kids for that matter) is going to be full of unpredictable twists and turns, unexpected costs, and any financial plan that I come up with now needs to be a little more flexible than pre-baby life!

Life with twin newborns is hectic and fragmented (it's taken me the entire day to write this post in increments of a few minutes at a time)!  Needless to say, I haven't had a lot of time to devote to our budget and financial plan.  I know we've pretty much blown the plan I had worked on pre-baby but I have no idea by how much.  In the coming weeks I'll be trying to devote a little time each day to getting our finances back in order as well as getting back on this blog... so stay tuned for the continuation of my financial adventures in babyland!