Thursday, July 28, 2011

I Hate Drug Companies

We ran out of some fertility medications last night so we called the pharmacy to get a refill. The pharmacy operates over the phone and they informed us that our insurance is maxed out when it comes to the fertility medication we need. At first I was OK with paying for it out of pocket until I saw the prices below:

Seriously?! who can afford this stuff??? we need 3 of these cartridges which are about the size of a perfume sample. WOW! that's all I can say! Well I can also say I hate all drug companies. I swear if feels like abuse. Why do they need to charge so much for these medications? I feel worse for the people who pay out of pocket for IVF treatments.

The good news- the pharmacy found a work a round and they will also cover the $125 copay and the overnight shipping costs... TG!


Monday, July 25, 2011

Infertility and IVF Expenses

Doxycycline, Estrace, Cetrotide, Menopur, Pregnyl, blood work, ultrasounds UGH! I hate fertility treatments and tired of hearing those words. Sorry! Anyways, since we did not plan ahead for the In vitro fertilisation, most of these expenses ended up the Citi Forward credit card. So far I've been really good about not touching the emergency fund but at this point anything else that comes up may come from there.

This month we added close to $1,500 more to credit card debt. I'll try to have numbers out next month but at this rate we continue adding debt and not going down as planned. Below are the 3 charges that added up to $1,500:

What bothers me the most is that we have a 70% chance that this will not work. Part of me knows that this will not work. I don't know what to think, how would you feel about spending $1500 on something like this?

Also, here's a good article that makes me think twice about all this: This is from a blog on Wall Street Journal:

We hear about fertility treatments when they're successful. But for millions of women, they mean regret, heartbreak, shame and silence: My Fertility Crisis


Friday, July 22, 2011

Day To Day Expenses

Believe it or not we have a lot of days where we don't spend any money. The wife stays home and doesn't go out for anything and I bring my lunch to work. But we also have days where we run out of things and we are forced to spend money. Example was last night, we needed some food to make it through the weekend so we made a list, budgeted $50 and headed to Target. What I thought would be $50 turned out to be $70.80. We stuck to our list and got the items we went in for: dog food, contact solution, egg beaters, regular eggs, tortillas, bread, cheese, juice, ice cream and tooth paste. It's stuff like this I have trouble budgeting for but these are things we always need.

This morning I decided to actually use my credit card to try and offset some of these day to day expenses. I went to my Citi Thank You rewards account and noticed I had 22,220 points just sitting there doing nothing so I cashed them in for two $100 dollar gift cards to Walmart:

Walmart is not my favorite store but we can get things like toiletries and groceries there. I can also use these at their Murphy gas stations and save 10 cents per gallon with gift cards. They have a promotion for 90 days in case you haven't heard about it : Murphy

I'm hoping to get these gift cards the first week of August, the goal is to offset day to day spending and send more money back to the credit cards.

Have a good weekend!


Thursday, July 21, 2011

We Had The Talk

LBC Teacher said in one of the comments: You had the debt talk! I'm impressed and want to hear more about it!

Yes, we had the talk. It was during one or our nightly walks. The wife and I try to walk four nights a week to keep the heart healthy and let the dog burn some energy. We were talking about all the fertility treatments and how we had just charged close to $1,400 on the credit card (more on that later) and I casually said, “well you know we really need to watch our spending for the next few months, our credit card balance is close to 7,000” and she said “I know that’s what I figured”. I was expecting a big argument or the usual “why didn’t you tell me!!” or a huge fight. Instead she told me she figured it was that high since we had to replace the air conditioning unit in the house and the recent Vegas trips. I also mentioned Discover had a “bit of a balance” and the only thing she said was well “let’s get serious the next few months and pay this off again”.

THANK GOD! I feel like a huge weight was lifted of my shoulders. I really wasn’t going to say anything but at the same time I felt bad leaving her in the dark. If something happened to me and she found out I was hiding $12,000 worth of credit card debt it would not look good.

So we kept talking and I asked if she had any expenses coming up that we needed to plan for. I was looking for things that teachers buy before school starts but she said that since she’s going to a new school, everything that first year is given to the teachers. They get to pick their own books, posters, rugs, games, center pieces etc. and the school pays. The only school related expenses we see are buying supplies for kids whose parents either don’t care or can’t afford them. We usually buy 10 of everything like crayons, scissors and glue and she gives them out to students. One year she had to buy a back pack for a student, that student was so grateful that to this day it feels like one of the best school purchases we ever made.

She also agreed to not buy any new clothes or shoes. Usually teachers also go back to school shopping for clothes, but she said she has everything she needs. We agreed to set aside $100 for her hair every six weeks and $50 for nails and pedicures every three weeks. Of course if pregnancy is on the horizon, she will cut out both of those for the next nine months.

So the wife is aware of the credit card debt! We both agreed to pay at least $1,000 a month and avoid spending money on things we don’t need. I can afford an extra $1,000 per month but we have so many birthdays and expenses coming up that I think I will use some of that money instead of charging things to the credit card.


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

I Bombed That Interview

I bombed my job interview yesterday. I spoke with the IT consultant of the company so he had all kinds of technical questions for me. Trust me, you can be the most technical person in the world but when someone starts talking programming and you don't have a computer handy you will look like an idiot. Really? asking me to write stored procedures on paper? asking me very detailed questions about .NET, ORACLE, SQL add in business terminololy like hedging, options, physical deals, risk management, actualizations, crude movements and on and on... It was bad.

Anyways, maybe I'm not ready to be paid big bucks? this is the third job interview over the last 6 months that I bombed that paid at least $100,000. It's even worse when the guy next to you at work announces that he's leaving and he got one of the jobs I interviwed for.


OK well today I'm hoping to get a call back... but I seriously doubt it will happen. At the same time I'm thankful to have a job.


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Job Interview Today

I have a job interview today with one of the top five oil and gas companies in the U.S. The position is to work with crude pipelines and commodities trading. I believe the salary is somewhere in the $90,000 to $100,000 range. This is also a chance to become an employee of this company. Right now I'm only a consultant, I get to work with most of the major oil companies in the world but I'm not an actual employee with any of them.

The only downside is location. This new company is not located in downtown Houston so I would have to drive there and gas would probably be $250 per month with my car. This could be a great excuse to trade in my current vehicle for a Toyota Prius, for about the same payment I have now. Of course, this would add a little bit of debt. I currently owe $10,000 on my car but I could sell it for $14,000 and use some of that extra money towards the debt.

Another great reason for a new job is my vacation pay out from my current employer. I currently have 250 hours of vacation saved up which means all of it would all have to be paid out in a lump sum. After taxes that amount should be somewhere around $8,000. I would apply all that money towards our credit card debt.

Wish me luck! I really, really want this job.


Monday, July 18, 2011

Weekend Spending

I’m going to try start posting about stuff we are buying on a daily basis to see where I can cut back. For the record, I haven’t bought anything fancy over the last couple of months. No new clothes, no sunglasses, no new shoes, no golf equipment, no computer stuff, no Apple gadgets NOTHING! Remember I freaked out about our debt back in May and decided to take control of our spending.

I’ve also cut back on drinking alcohol. I haven’t been to a bar since the first week of June before my birthday and I also quit smoking the morning after my birthday. I was more of a social smoker but I could easily finish a pack in one night of drinking with friends.

With that said, here is our weekend spending from Friday at 3 PM to Sunday night:

Friday I left work around 3 and went to Walmart with the wife. Our neighbors invited us over for dinner but asked us to bring some drinks. I picked a 12 pack of Coca Cola and a 6 pack of Seven Up. The wife wanted a snack and a Dr. Pepper at checkout. Total spent at Walmart on Friday was $10.59.

On Saturday, the wife’s parents wanted to go look at furniture and offered to take us out to dinner with a couple of their friends if we came along. We went to a Mexican restaurant and we picked up the round of drinks before we got our table. We figured since they were inviting us out to dinner at least we could pay for some drinks. The total with tip was $40.84.

Sunday we stopped by Academy (Sports store in Houston). I needed some fishing stuff and the wife found a couple of things she didn’t really need but it was only $12 so I didn’t care too much. The total there was only $32.

We ate all other weekend meals at home but Sunday night we were too tired to cook so we called our favorite Chinese restaurant and ordered some food. We hadn’t had Chinese food in a few months so we decided to splurge a little. The total was $21.59 with delivery and tip.

So that sums up our weekend spending, I had a mental budget of $100 so I think we did OK. The wife and I are finally on sync with the spending. We had a little ‘debt’ talk and now she’s aware of our credit card numbers. We also came to the agreement that unless we really NEED something, we are not going to buy it.

I hope everyone had a good weekend!HS

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Should I Stop Contributing To My 401k?

I'm serious about what I said last week, the time has come to pay down our credit card debt. I think I can add more money to the monthly payments by cutting out my 401k contributions. I'm currently setting aside 9% of my total pay and my employer kicks in another 6% (dollar per dollar match up to 6%) so this puts me in at 15% savings per year. I would love to save more but I also contribute an additional 5% to the company's Employee Share Purchase Plan.

The question is, would you stop 401k contributions to pay down debt? I could bring home close to $500 extra per month but I would miss out on that 6% match from my employer. I would also miss out on the company's profit sharing plan that goes in to the 401k account. The only way to get this money is to participate in the 401k program. This is not a lot of money but over the years I'd say close to $12,000.

The other issue I have is my rate of return. Below is my 401k asset allocation. As you can see, 98% of my contributions go to stock (growth/income) and 2% to go international stock. I think my risk tolerance is pretty high but last year my rate of return was 30%. Probably not a bad ROI, of course keep in mind that number was -68 back in 2008 when the market crashed.

I also have the wife on a 403b and 457 plan through her employer. They have a company that manages the asset allocations so her rate of return last year was something like 2% (lame). I could always take some of that money but it's such a hassle when it comes to public schools, you actually have to send in paperwork to HR.

So what would you do? pay down the debt or save for the future? I really don't know what to do. I think I can handle the debt but I also have this desire to bring it back down and be credit card debt free once again.


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Crazy Credit Card Purchases

There's not doubt we have a spending problem but remember that this blog is about "the struggles to have self control with credit cards, and the joys of paying them off". From time to time I go back and look at some of our credit card purchases. Below is a statement from March, as you can see someone decided to go to Las Vegas. There was another Vegas trip the last week of May (wife only) and let's just say that statement looks way worse than this one.

March 2011:

Keeps going...

Second page...

Almost there...

I'm not allowed to say life happens, I think I've used that one too many times. I wonder if we are the only people in the world that spend like this. I swear people around me spend way more... any others out there??


Friday, July 8, 2011

Our Debt In Perspective

This morning I added up all our outstanding credit card debt. I am no longer in denial or making excuses, I'm determined to pay this back. Truth is, we've been spending a little too much lately so it's time to get serious about paying this down. So here are the numbers, actual screen shots taken this morning:

Discover Card:

Citi Thank You:

Citi Forward:

So after adding it all up, the numbers above come out to $11,316.

This number is actually $11,216 since I made a payment of $100 to Discover last night but it's not posted yet. As you can see we love to charge, we have no problems spending but as responsible adults we always pay back. I think we've had higher credit card debt in the past so I'm confident I can bring this number down. The wife is not aware of this number so hopefully I can pay it down quickly... I know hiding debt from a spouse is bad but she's never asked, I say things like we need to watch our spending and she smiles.

I will be posting the numbers every couple of weeks, I have a couple of things like fertility drugs coming up that may impact the payments but rest assured, we are spending less and any extra money that I find will go towards debt.

Have a good weekend!


Friday, July 1, 2011

In Vitro Fertilization Updates

This morning I spoke with the financial counselor at the fertility clinic and she told me that our health insurance will cover most of In Vitro procedure. She was impressed with our coverage and even told us to "use it now, with Obamacare coming you won't have these kind of benefits in the future". This made me laugh, she was very young, probably no more than 25. Can you tell we live in a very conservative part of town? LOL.

Now the really good news! This whole procedure is going to costs us less than $1,000 dollars! This includes all tests, drugs and physician's fees. I'm sure I'll get the usual bills in the mail but at least we are not going to be $15,000 dollars in DEBT. She also mentioned that the insurance will only cover this once. There's some kind of lifetime benefits cap for fertility and this will probably take most of that money. The fertility clinic does have the buy one get one free special meaning if you are not pregnant they can try again but I assume this will cost more out of pocket, I guess we'll have to wait and see how it goes.

What keeps me up a night? all the testing! my big fear is they're going to find something wrong and that will lead to something else. I had all my blood tests done and haven't heard anything back... I'm hoping, praying and wishing for the best. I keep telling myself if it doesn't work, at least we tried. I can only do so much... if life, god, nature doesn't want this to happen... then it's not going to happen.

Anyways I'll keep you posted, wish us luck.

Have a good weekend!