Monthly Archives: July 2009

Keeping A Close Eye On Those Medical Bills

I recently had to have a kidney stone removed.  The hospital estimated the cost of the procedure, and offered me a 20% discount – if I paid my portion on the day of the procedure.  I paid the estimated amount and had the procedure.

Today, I received the actual explanation of benefits from my insurance company.  I am happy to report that my portion of the cost of the procedure is several hundred dollars less than the amount I paid to the hospital.  When estimating my portion, the hospital included my full deductible, unaware that, due to several doctors’ visits prior to the procedure, I had already met most of my deductible.

I called the hospital and spoke to the billing department.  A refund for the overpayment has been issued.  I should receive it in a week or so.

It’s always a good idea to check – and then recheck – your medical bills.  Many insurance companies now allow you to view your account information online.  This makes it very easy to view recent activity and to check account balances.

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What Works For Me – Budget Categories

There are dozens of budgeting products on the market.  I’m partial to the You Need A Budget system, but there are other great systems available.  Find a system that works with you, fine tune it to meet your needs, and then use your budget as a tool.

After selecting a budgeting system, it’s important to create specific budget categories.  When I first started budgeting, I had way too many categories.  I tried to be too specific.  Instead of managing my money, I just ended up spending time working on my budget.  If you have too many (or too few) categories, you might grow frustrated with your budget, and you might simply ditch it altogether.

What Works For Me – Budget Categories

I divide my budget into three major categories – spending, saving, and giving.  (I create a budget based solely on our household take-home pay.  In other words, I do not include pre-tax retirement contributions or employer deducted health insurance premiums.  Also, I live in a house provided as part of my compensation.)  I then divide the three major categories into the following budget categories and sub-categories.

Spending

Utilities

Electric Bill

Cellular Bill

Telephone Bill

Satellite Bill

Medical

Medical Bills

Medicine

Child Care

Daycare

Baby Sitters

Food

Grocery Store

Eating Out

Entertainment

Family Nights

Miscellaneous Spending

Clothing

Automobiles

Gasoline

Routine Maintenance

Saving

Retirement

Roth IRA 1

Roth IRA 2

Education

ESA 1

ESA 2

ESA 3

Automobiles

Automobile 1 Replacement

Automobile 2 Replacement

Automobile Repairs

Home

Furniture Replacement

Appliance Replacement

Future Home Purchase

Insurance

Automobile Insurance Premiums

Disability Insurance Premiums

Renter’s Insurance Premiums

Additional Savings

Giving

Church

Tithes

Offerings

Special Offerings

Gifts

Donations

Presents

Basically, I have 15 budget categories, with most categories broken down in to two or three sub-categories.  (Once in a while, I’ll add an extra category or two, depending on circumstances.  For instance, for a long time, I was saving for a new lawn mower, so there was a specific savings category labeled lawn mower.)

For me, and my family, it works best if we limit our number of budget categories.  I find that this makes things a bit more manageable – and more user-friendly.  (If you have irregular income – and most folks do – I suggest you read this post:  How To Create A Budget If You Have An Irregular Income.  You’ll find information for setting up a budget, even if your month-to-month income fluctuates.)

What About You? -

I’d love to hear from you, my awesome readers.  How many budget categories do you use?  Have you found that you like a super-simple system, or do you prefer something much more complex?  Leave comments here and / or connect with me via Twitter.

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$4 And $10 Generic Prescriptions From Walmart, Kroger, and Target

Two weeks ago, I had a procedure to remove a kidney stone.  After the procedure, my doctor gave me a prescription for an antibiotic.  I had my local pharmacist fill the prescription.  I am feeling much better and I am happy to be kidney stone-free.

The antibiotic that I was prescribed is covered by our health care plan and was available at our local pharmacy for a discounted price.  While I mentioned my prescription to a friend, he told me that he gets most of his prescriptions through Walmart’s discounted prescription program.  Interested, I did some searching, and found that Walmart, Target, and Kroger all offer discounted prescriptions.

Click here to view details about Walmart’s Discount Prescription Program.

Click here to view details about Kroger’s Discount Prescription Program.

Click here to view details about Target’s Discount Prescription Program.

Click here to view an updated list of Discount Prescription Programs.

My prescription was for the generic or brand name.  The above mentioned discounts apply to generic prescriptions.  I always ask my doctor if it is cool to substitute a generic for a brand name, and then I follow his / her advice.

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What Works For Me – Debt Reduction Mindset

There are thousands of websites and hundreds of books about debt reduction and debt reduction techniques.  Personally, I’ve written several articles about my own debt reduction journey, a comprehensive guide covering how to get out of debt, and I’ve even created my own personal debt reduction method.

Today, I thought it might be beneficial to look beyond the methods and techniques, and really think about what keeps a debt reducer motivated.

What Works For Me – Debt Reduction Mindset

I like to keep things simple, so I like to focus on one debt at a time.  After listing my debts, and paying minimums to all creditors, I then spend my time trying to reduce the balance of the first account on my list.  As soon as I eliminate the first account, I’m pumped to move to the second account.  Focusing really helps.

I think it’s important to build community around a goal.  I like for my wife and I to be on the same team, and of one mind.  In fact, it would have been impossible for us to get out of debt, if my wife and I had not learned to communicate and work together.  We also surrounded ourselves with positive people and friends who would not cause us to stumble.

I find that I need to set an example of restraint and frugality.  It’s relatively easy to create a budget.  It’s a far more difficult thing to stick to a budget.  As a parent, I know that my kids are looking to me for advice, encouragement, and wisdom.  The sacrifices that I make today will pay big dividends in the future.

I have learned to eliminate the noise and listen to just a few, trusted voices.  Instead of trying fifteen different debt reduction techniques, or looking for a quick fix to my debt problem, I sat down, created a plan, and followed the plan.  I never pay attention to gimmicks and get-out-of-debt quick schemes.  Instead, I focus on paying the bills that I owe and following the plan that I have created.

I celebrate every success, big or small.  My wife and I have learned to celebrate our financial successes – without spending a lot of money.  We enjoy a date night or take the kids out for a day at the park.  I make a big deal out of our goals – and an even bigger deal when we achieve them.

I admit that I am human.  Here’s the reality.  Even though thousands of people visit my site each month (which blows my mind), I’m still prone to the occasional mistake.  When dealing with a setback, it’s important that I regroup, remember why I started the process in the first place, and move forward.  Even when I missed my original debt reduction goal date, I kept going.

What About You? -

I’d love to hear from you, my awesome readers.  What keeps you motivated?  What steps have you taken to keep your mind in the game?  Have you slacked off, but decided to get going as of today?  Leave comments here and / or connect with me via Twitter.

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