Once again, my work has brought me to the arctic tundra known as Minnesota. When I come to Minnesota, I stay with my parents. I actually don't have to do this (my company would pay for a hotel), but it's easier (because my son stays with my mom), and more delicious (my mom will cook whatever I request as long as I do the grocery shopping).
Each time I come home, I reflect on how fortunate I am to have parents who love me, my husband and my son, and how thankful I am for their persistence in teaching me so many life lessons. My parents never sat down and talked to us about money (other than to tell me to stop lending money to my siblings if I wasn't going to keep track of IOU notes), but as they say, "more is caught than taught." My parents taught me a ton about money, without "teaching" a single lesson.
My parents aren't what you would call big frugalers, but, in my opinion, they are great with money. I aspire to their level of financial peace, their generosity, and their willingness to take finances so lightly that its almost a source of humor to them. They are both thoughtful and decisive when it comes to earning, saving and spending money, but they don't clutch their fists around their decisions and plans. They can do this because they've built up some awesome systems, including my dad's patented value menu approach to spending. It is alternatively called, "Why my parents have way better stuff now than when we were kids."
Recently, I've picked up a new hobby. It's called calling medical providers and my insurance company to get the medical coverage I want at the price I want, or at the very least at a price lower than what I've been billed.
This hobby initially started when I stuck my finger in a blender, and decided to go to the ER to get my finger stitched up. Thankfully, the ER is just 2 miles from my house, and I only had to wait 2-3 hours before someone saw me. Sadly, this is much better than most ER stories I hear.
If I would have had the sense to stick my finger in the blender between 8AM and 5PM on a Monday through Friday, I could have saved hundreds of dollars by visiting an urgent care physician. Alas, it was 11AM on a Saturday, and my choice was no stitches or visit the ER. I went with the ER.
Being something of a tightwad, I was not eager to visit the ER, as I knew the price tag would come in around $2500. Thanks to some savvy negotiating techniques (ie calling and asking for a lower bill, just because), I came out with an out of pocket expense of a mere $1500 dollars. The savings were a fifty-fifty split between my insurance negotiating on my behalf and the few (dozen) phone calls to lower my bills.
If you have medical bills, you should be calling the providers and asking for a discount. This is my script. "If I pay today, is there anything you can do to lower my bill?" Usually the answer is a 15-20% discount. Then I use the line, "Is there anything else you can do to lower the bill?" One time, I got an additional ten dollars off for filling out a survey, but usually the answer has been no. Okay, so I'm not too savvy, but I'm still saving money.
Which brings me to my next topic, which is preemptively saving money on medical expenses.
Last weekend, we took my son to an art museum. Lest you think we're ridiculous, this Museum is part of Raleigh's First Friday's which is a FREE event where you get the opportunity to enjoy art, live music and more in downtown Raleigh venues. It is always a lot of fun, and children are totally welcome.
Well, the art museum had a special display called The Gatlinburg Special which is an interactive mini-golf course that glorifies that hovel turned tourist trap (because Dolly Parten) of Gatlinburg, Tennessee. The glamorized kitsch might have spoken to me, but it entranced my son. He saw some light up Santa's and immediately called (for the whole museum to hear), "Christmas! Mommy, Daddy, Christmas!" Which made the artist in residence crack up, but it baffled me.
I have no idea where my son learned about Santa. Last year, he was too young for Christmas television programs. I don't recollect taking him to malls or even a Wal-Mart that had a bell ringer. We don't have any Christmas themed books, and I don't even drink Coca-Cola classic. My husband thinks that our previous babysitter taught him, but I doubt that to be the case because they didn't put up any Christmas decorations because they were in the process of selling their house. I mean, this is still the best guess (perhaps she had Christmas themed books), but I kind of doubt it.
Anyhow, my son began waving a golf club rather manically at the Santa, so I had to take it away, and moments later he was distracted by, "Shark, Mommy, Daddy, Shark!!!! Mama Shark, do do... doo doo!"
Yesterday at work, I had a thought that is overwhelmingly common for me, "Are you STILL thinking about this?" I am constantly shocked when it takes someone more than 10-15 minutes to make a decision much less the 10-15 days that seems to be standard in my place of business.
You see, I have a heavy bias towards taking action- any action will do. I figure that I can fail about 30-45 times if I make an immediate decision, as opposed to thinking through all the scenarios for two weeks until finally arriving at a maybe optimal solution. You can call my method the spaghetti method (throwing spaghetti against a wall until it sticks), or you can call it the stoplight method (the fastest way across town is stoplight to stoplight). When I choose action first, even if a little blindly, I think that I'm more likely to develop a solution in a timely manner.
Clearly the bias towards action over analysis is better. Right?
I'm a wife, a mom, an employee, and a personal finance nerd who is devoted to spreadsheeting my way through life.