Six ways to save money on medical bills

I’ve been on my share of hospital stay. In the past three years, I had 2 outpatient surgeries and gave birth to wonderful baby boy. Fortunately, the surgeries were simple and I had a normal delivery, even though I gave birth prematurely, just after 28 weeks.

Insurance to the rescue

I’m very grateful that my employer provides insurance and my out of pocket was minimal. The claims that were filed were astronomical. I don’t think I can afford the kind of care I received without it. There are still some out of pocket expense, even with insurance. Here are some things that I learned which save me some money over the course of the year.

1. Research the insurance provided by your employer during open period

This is the key. Make sure you pay attention every year to open period and research the changes to your policy. Make sure that it is still the optimal choice for your life. For example, I fell on my bicycle and broke my ACL during the first week of work. I picked the insurance that will minimize my out of pocket expense. I considered both the monthly share of the premium and the maximum deductible. I also signed up for Flexible Spending Account.

2. Sign up for tax deductible health spending accounts

There are 2 types of tax deductible spending accounts, the Health Savings Account (HSA) and the Flexible Savings Account (FSA). You can only signed up for one for each plan period. If you sign up for HSA, you will also have a higher deductible amount. FSA, on the other hand have a lower deductible. I signed up for FSA during the year that I had an ACL reconstruction and this year, when I gave birth. My maximum deductible was $2k for these years. I then signed up for FSA for the maximum during that plan period. By using FSA, I saved taxes and I was able to use it right away. During the year when I don’t have a plan medical expense, I signed up for HSA, which also means a higher deductible amount. For my plan, this means $3k of maximum deductible. I maxed out by HSA during that year. Fortunately, I didn’t have any big medical expense during the year. I only had a preventative visits which were free.

3. Research doctors for in network coverage

When I had my ACL reconstruction, I researched doctors that were part of my network. Fortunately, he is also affiliated with the hospital where my primary doctor practices. He has a private practice, focusing on orthopedics. Similar when I gave birth, I chose an OB and a hospital that is part of my network.

4. Ask if the providers / hospital provide discounts

Providers and hospitals will typically provide discounts if you pay your out of pocket within 30 days. I received a 5% discount on my bill by paying within 30 days.

5. Use your credit cards and earn rewards and points

I signed up for new rewards cards to pay for medical bills. I was able to maximize the needed amount to received the sign up bonus. If you strategize, you can end up getting money back as a cash back or rewards through airline mileage.

6. Time appointments / planned surgeries on a single plan period

This will require some planning. For me, I will always have my annual physical exam during the end of the plan year or during open period. This will give me a chance to discuss with my doctor any concerns I have. I don’t advocate waiting to do this once a year if you have concerns that are really alarming. For me, I had my breast examine every year. For one year, I felt a small lump. I then had an ultra sound, a biopsy and a surgery for the next plan year.  The ultrasound itself covered most of my dedcutible. This year also happened to be the year I had my ACL reconstruction.

Monthly Spending – August 2017

I’m catching up on this blog and publishing another spending post for August. August was spent mainly in the hospital. During those times, I tried my best to work on nursing baby MMD and learned from the nurses as much as I could. I was spending 6 hours a day in the hospital this month. Baby MMD made it home after spending 74 days in the NICU. We are overjoyed. I welcomed the sleepless nights better than hospital stays.

Lack of Baby Shower

The Mr. and I also took majority of August off in preparation for baby MMD’s arrival. Majority of my spending was in preparation for baby MMD’s arrival. Since I gave birth prematurely, I didn’t have the chance to have a baby shower. I did not missed it at all. In fact, the absence of the shower caused me to focus on essential items. We also received majority of the big ticket items for free. The major items we bought are the swing that baby MMD used in the NICU and a stroller with a bassinet that he uses daily. Those 2 are definitely a luxury. The rest are for feeding. I also found a lot of baby’s clothes, which my sister happily picked up and paid for. It costs $50 for almost 24 months of wardrobe.

So here’s the month of August, clocking in under $5k

 

Want to know more – just ask. If you have any recommendation where I can manage to decrease this, feel free to comment. I thank you in advance.

Tracking: I track my expenses using mint. I really like the app and made categorizing my expenses very easy. I enjoy looking at charts and the comparison feature is fantastic.

 

Monthly Spending – July 2017

Hello, medical bills

This is a very late post regarding my spending for July. Time is limited once you have a baby. I went back to work in July after giving birth in June. Baby MMD stayed in the hospital for that month. Juggling work, pumping and hospital visit were challenging. My mood to write was also affected by baby MMD’s progress in the hospital. It is hard to take my mind off the NICU. Because of that, this blog was essentially abandoned for the month of July and August.

Financial Independence have a new meaning now. I am thankful for the frugal lifestyle I had. Because of this, the unexpected expenses caused by the medical bills did not affected our family. Fast forward to this month, most of the bills were already paid. I am not expecting more copay for baby MMD. I am also very thankful for insurance. I can not imagine being in a situation without it. Overall, despite of all the roller coaster emotions that happened / happening, I am thankful that I don’t have to think of finances. I can focus on this tiny human, our family and our health.

I don’t have additional spending aside from the medical bills. Note that the grocery there is small because Mr. MMD purchased the grocery while I pay for the utilities and internet. My grocery was a snack here and there that I purchased on my own.

Want to know more – just ask. If you have any recommendation where I can manage to decrease this, feel free to comment. I thank you in advance.

Tracking: I track my expenses using mint. I really like the app and made categorizing my expenses very easy. I enjoy looking at charts and the comparison feature is fantastic.

Monthly Spending – June 2017

Oh Baby, Baby, Baby

June was full of events. I had a preterm delivery and welcomed baby MMD. He was 28 weeks at that time. It was very surreal. I don’t have enough words to describe the feelings I have. It’s full of emotions. We’re trying to take this day by day. It’s been more than a month and I’m trying to get some sense of normalcy back in my life. It’s hard navigating parenting in the NICU. My life is now centered on pumping and NICU visit. At some point, I would like to be able to write about his birth, but not this time. This time, I’ll give you an update of my spending for June.

Cost I didn’t pay for

You’ll not see a spike on my spending for this month. The medical bills will not kick in until the next couple of months – and maybe even more, depending on the date of the claim. Mr. MMD also purchased most of the items we need. For June, we bought a freezer, meal preparation items and a lot of groceries. Mr. MMD has been cooking every weekend for us. These are not necessarily unexpected expense. We plan to buy a freezer so we can prepare meals in advance, just not on the month of June. Just like we didn’t plan for baby MMD’s arrival until August. The expense came early, but it is ok. I also purchased a breast pump which was not included below since I filed a claim from my insurance to get it reimbursed. Breast pump is consider preventative and I’m lucky enough that insurance covers the cost of it.

What I paid for

We bought a vacuum cleaner this June. I think its time for us to actually have a decent one instead of using our Roomba. This came from my account so you’ll see it as an expense.

So here’s my expenses. A tad late from posting, but then again, I just had a baby.

 

Want to know more – just ask. If you have any recommendation where I can manage to decrease this, feel free to comment. I thank you in advance.

Tracking: I track my expenses using mint. I really like the app and made categorizing my expenses very easy. I enjoy looking at charts and the comparison feature is fantastic.

 

 

 

Maternity Clothes on a Budget

I am now officially on my third trimester and so far I only spent $82.09 on a couple of maternity jeans. I’m starting to grow out of my normal clothes, but I don’t want to purchase clothing that I will only use for 3 months. There comes the problem. I’ve been lucky to receive some tops from my sister but those were not maternity clothes. It is actually just bigger size shirts and I also started to grow out of them. I watched out for maternity clothes from my local buy nothing project, with no luck.

Renting Maternity Clothes

I talked to my friends and family about the concept of renting maternity clothes. So after a little search from google, I found Le Tote. I spent some time reading reviews and browsed through the site. I decided to sign up for it for a month and give it a try.

The concept is pretty simple. It’s like Netflix but only on clothes. Le Tote have three maternity plans. For $74 per month, you rent 4 clothes or 3 clothes with 2 accessories. For $54 per month, you can rent 2 clothes and 2 accessories. You can keep the item as long as you want or buy the items. To buy the items, all you have to do is keep it and they will automatically charge your credit card on file.

I signed up for $74 a month to receive 4 clothing items. After signing up, I select the styles I like. I received an e-mail 53 minutes later with my first tote with 4 clothes. I customized it before shipment and selected 2 different tops. Here is my first tote that was ordered on Friday night.

I received an e-mail on Saturday that my first tote was in transit. I received the tote on Monday. I was very impressed with the clothes. I returned it on Saturday using the prepaid postage  envelope via USPS. That same night I received my next notification that my next tote has been selected and ready for customization.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So far, I’m very happy with the clothes. The app and the site is also very user friendly. I’ll continue using this service for the rest of the month and I might even try the “classic”, which is non-maternity.

If you want to try Le Tote use this link to receive $25 off your first month. The link is a referral and I will receive $15 off my next subscription for if you sign up using the link.

Monthly Spending – May 2017

We welcome May with a lot of warm weather. I mean A LOT. For a pregnant women living in the northwest, this can be very uncomfortable. I needed 2 fans on me for a couple of nights to sleep. We also talk about buying an AC for the room. Usually, I won’t consider this, but I’m giving myself a break here. C’mon, I am going on my third trimester during the hottest months of the year.

Name Change, Furry baby and the Mr’s birthday

I changed my name this month. There were interesting trips to Social Security and DMV, but I managed to do it in 1 afternoon. I’ll call that a win. It took almost the full month to change it for everything else (I’m sure I’m not done yet).

The furry baby also needs to get her heartworm medication. We are walking distance to a pet store that host the Good Neighbor Vet 2 Saturdays of the month. I bought a full year’s worth of medicine which included a free heartworm test all for $46. I really like this clinic. They only perform preventative care at extremely affordable price, including preventative medications. The Furry baby still has a different doctor when she get sick.

And of course, this month, we also celebrated the Mr’s birthday. We had a simple celebration at home and invited our close friends. I definitely enjoyed hosting people at home instead of going out. It is easier to plan than calling a restaurant for reservation, it’s more relax and of course cost way less.

Here’s my expenses for May.

Want to know more – just ask. If you have any recommendation where I can manage to decrease this, feel free to comment. I thank you in advance.

Tracking: I track my expenses using mint. I really like the app and made categorizing my expenses very easy. I enjoy looking at charts and the comparison feature is fantastic.

How to clean a wedding gown

According to this article, the average cost to clean and preserve a wedding gown range from $150 – $225. I bought my wedding gown used and I received it in a box with a receipt of the dry cleaning costing the previous owner about $250. I brought my wedding gown for $436, including shipping. If you do the math, the previous owner paid about 57% of my purchase price to clean and preserve the gown. Take note that the original price of this gown is $1,923.

I knew that I will sell my gown after my wedding. I thought about having the gown be professionally cleaned, but the cost is ridiculous. Even the cheapest is about $125. I decided to wash my own gown and here’s how I did it.

Steps

  1. Check the fabric and details of the gown. Make sure that your gown is NOT silk. Majority of the gowns are polyester. If the gown is beaded, check to make sure that there are no lose beading. Mine is made of organza and polyester.
  2. Spot clean the gown. Major things to look for are the train, armpits and neckline. I diluted a normal fabric detergent and water. Using a rag, I spot clean the gown. Do this more than once for heavy stains.
  3. Make sure that your washer is clean.
  4. Make sure that the gown zipper and buttons area all closed
  5. Turn the gown inside out
  6. Turn the washer to delicate and wash the gown. I used woolite for detergent. If you spot clean a lot of areas, you don’t need to put more detergent. I rinsed it twice to make sure that detergents were removed.
  7. After washing, check to make sure that stains are removed.
  8. Hang it dry.
  9. Turn it inside out, check to make sure that the stains were removed or any lose beading
  10. Store it back in the preservation box (if you have one).

Washing the gown is easier that I expected. I was really surprised with the result. It looks just like the way I bought it and it smells minty fresh!

The time I spent more

I’m not frugal all the time. This week, I received a notification from Mint that I exceeded my travel budget. I didn’t even know that I have a travel budget. I also don’t have a budget. I will continue to spend my money for things that brings me joy.

We recently went on a trip to sunny Los Angeles. The trip was not cheap. In total, I spent $1,025.26 in one weekend. This is a considerable amount given that the trip was short and domestic. I paid for the hotel overlooking the marina, rented a car and feast on seafood. This is my fifth visit to LA and I somewhat know the area.I specifically stay in the South Bay and didn’t bother visit to the “tourist” spot. About 7 years ago, I stayed in the same area, but stayed in a hostel. I was also there for work and I just extended the trip and my overall expense is minuscule compare to this. I’m doing a lot better now, but I do not mind staying in hostels. In fact, I stayed in a hostel when I was in Lisbon.

Overlooking Alfama, my last trip where I stayed in a Hostel

For this trip, I tried to listen to my body more. I can say that I am becoming more emotional. I can feel my baby move. It’s exciting and scary at the same time. I can never really prepare for what’s about to come, so I took a time off. For this trip, I relaxed, ate and took a lot of naps. This is not my typical travel style, where I’m usually on the go, but it is on purpose.

Local brunch by Redondo Marina, we walked here from our hotel

I am incredibly grateful that I can take these kind of trips without breaking the bank. The main reason I choose a frugal lifestyle is to have options like this.

 

Monthly Spending – April 2017

I finally start feeling the change of weather this April. This is very much welcomed in my part of the world where it can feel that the gloomy weather is year round. This is also the time where I usually get anxious and go on a trip just to see the sun. At any given time, I would have taken my backpack and travel. It’s different this time. I’m unsure of what I feel. I feel normal for the most part but with the weight gain and fatigue, I’m hesitant to travel the same way as I did last year. Last year, I went to Portugal by myself, traversing the narrow streets, walking almost everywhere or taking the tram.

A little bit of sunshine

I gave in on my anxiety and agreed to go on a long weekend with the Mr to sunny Los Angeles. LA is a great choice because 1) there is sun 2) we have friends that live there 3) I’ve been there many times and I will not be on the “I need to see everything” phase. This was a pretty luxurious trip for our end. Instead of a hostel which I stayed at when I was in Lisbon, I booked a hotel overlooking the marina and yes it was pricey. I think that’s the reason that my friends and coworkers are calling it a “babymoon”. Let’s just say that I was not frugal for that weekend. Since the hotel trip was not charged till May, I didn’t see this spending for April.

Hobbies, etc

I also signed up for beginner sewing classes last month. After using my sewing machine and looking at you tubes, I decided to cancel my classes and received a refund from it. I felt that it is really easy to teach myself as long as I practice. My first project was a simple disposable baby wipes. My fur baby chewed on my 10 year old bed sheet and I used the cotton fabric to make a simple disposable baby wipes. We’re going to try to use a cloth diaper for the baby and we might as well use a disposable baby wipes. I was able to make about 30 pieces from the sheet and practice a simple sewing technique. At the same time, I received some scrap fabric from my local buy nothing group and I was able to make a table cloth out of it. I don’t intend to make complicated clothing out of the sewing machine, so at this point, I think I already know the “beginner”. I might sign up for an intermediate if I decide to continue on this hobby.

We also celebrated my mother’s birthday and it’s been somewhat of a tradition to go to Olive Garden’s. Of course, my sister and I split the bill. I think for next year, I need to plan for this more and check if I can get some discounts. I also finally got a double shower curtain rod from Amazon. This has been on my list for a while and it was installed yesterday.

And here’s my expenses for April. I closed with a little bit more than 3K.

Want to know more – just ask. If you have any recommendation where I can manage to decrease this, feel free to comment. I thank you in advance.

Tracking: I track my expenses using mint. I really like the app and made categorizing my expenses very easy. I enjoy looking at charts and the comparison feature is fantastic.

 

21 weeks of pregnancy – the financial journey

I reached the midpoint of my pregnancy. We found out that we are having a baby boy and all my check ups had been normal. So far, we haven’t bought anything, but it already cost us $980.09. Even though we know the cost associated to having a child, I still cringe when it hits my credit card. We are fortunate enough to not go in debt and have insurance to cover for medical bills. I have enough balance on my Health Savings Account (HSA) to pay for my deductible but I choose to leave it invested. This expense is just now part of my monthly expense.

Things that I paid for

Majority of what I paid for are related to medical bills and pregnancy classes that we will take in June. I also bought a couple of maternity jeans. So far, I’m still wearing all my normal clothes and I received some shirt from my mom and my sister that are stretchy. I’m halfway there so I doubt that I’ll need to buy more maternity clothes.

Furniture shopping shocker

Given that I have never shopped for baby furniture, it was definitely a shocker when I started looking for baby items. Crib alone can go further than 1K. We visited ikea and although there are cheaper option, the furniture doesn’t look as sturdy as it should be. We also visited Pottery Barn. Everything there looks so adorable that I just want something exactly like that in the nursery. My husband reminded me that we don’t need anything cute, because our baby will make the room cute.. awww… He was also trying to make sure that I don’t purchase anything. We did decide that we will try to purchase a solid wood crib that will last and that hopefully can be passed on. I’m trying to look at the used market.

What we got for free

I already received a couple of anywhere chair from pottery barn and a rocker from our local buy nothing group. The chair will need to be personalized. It’s my chance to start embroidering the new name for our baby.  I can’t believe that I got this for free. It retails $89 in pottery barn for the smallest one. I also received 24 fuzzi bunz cloth diaper for free. It doesn’t have an insert, and we will need to change the elastics, but if we’re successful with using a cloth diaper, this can saved us quite a bit. We’ve already been told by coworkers and friends that we will receive some clothing too.

Furry baby is checking out the rocker

Fighting back by being patient

I have to remind myself to be patient from time to time. It’s hard because I just want to finish the nursery, and just purchase everything. For some reason, the baby companies knows that we’re expecting since every advertisement on my feed are baby furnitures. It is easy to purchase everything new, but I’d rather spend that money for my baby’s experience later on in life. As my husband keeps reminding me, the baby will not know the color or the design. As long as what we purchase is safe and comfortable and that we’re there for him, he will be fine.  

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