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Archive for May, 2012

Summer Doings and Good News

May 30th, 2012 at 06:46 am

**So dh FINALLY got his MRI results. He is so far out from surgery that they just don't bother to call you back if there is anything to report. VERY frustrating. So, no, did not forget to mention the results - just took like a whole month to get them. In the meantime, we figured it had to be hardly worth calling us for. Phew!

No change - next MRI in one year. Yay for some GOOD news!!

**They moved the Scholastic book sale to after school is out. We usually fall back on that for GREAT teacher gifts. Which I suppose we still could. BUT both the kids' teachers this year are just plain awesome. BM ends 3 years with his teacher, and LM got a really good one this year. I might actually think about buying them a gift. Saying, "You were the most awesome teachers ever, but we will get back to you in a couple of weeks with a gift," just doesn't jive with me. Especially since it is the same old thing we always give them.

**Kids' birthdays are also coming up. I am thinking that we will go really low key this year. Like, maybe invite a couple of friends out for laser tag. But not sure we really need to do much else. We usually go big because the kids are only a few days apart, and we combine. & dh's family is huge and it's always a big deal to them. But with a 9yo, I think he is getting old enough to do the casual friend thing. Anyway, we also try to plan the party before school gets out so we can get the invitations out, but I don't think we need to do that this year. So I feel relief that I don't have to figure it all out NOW! Laser Tag with a couple of friends is the front runner for now.

I was thinking pool party at our community pool, but it will cost $185. Ouch! I was thinking of that route for cheap and easy. So much for cheap! Any other time of year it could maybe work. It is only $60 for the pool area. But since it is always 110 degrees whenever their party is, I would like access to the air-conditioned clubhouse, kitchen/fridge/freezer, etc. So, nevermind!

**Just signed up BM for soccer. It's really the only extra-curricular he is doing this year. IT's only like $100 for the season.

**Just signed up LM for swim lessons - his only extra-curricular. I was too cheap last year, which is fair enough because I have more cash this year. It's not like riding a bicycle though - he needs some refresher - has forgotten some skills. BM is a very strong swimmer, and LM is not too far behind, once he re-learns some basics. I look forward to having TWO strong swimmers!

{Last year I tried the practice, practice, practice route, but the kids have had some pretty excellent swim teachers, so I see they are worth the bucks. I have definitely failed on my own. He's very comfortable in the pool, but totally forgot how to float. It will take a good teacher one day to refresh him. HE's got 10 lessons lined up, which I am sure is more than ample.}.

**Dh saw one of our favorite local bands has come out of "retirement" to play a gig in San Jose. It's like a Thursday night, so I took the Friday after off of work. I am excited about this!

Couch Sold!

May 28th, 2012 at 08:00 pm

We got our couch sold today - $200.

Woohoo!

This puts the effective purchase price of our new living room furniture at $525. $525 out of my pocket...



Spend Spend Spend

May 25th, 2012 at 06:28 pm

**Got the piano tuned/cleaned/fixed, and it sounds really good. I actually noticed a difference... Maybe we will do it again in 2-3 years, instead of 5. Maybe sooner with two dedicated piano students now. {I've been meaning to do this about 18 months - how sad is that! I am in "get it done" mode, that is for sure}.

**$100**

**Our gardener fixed the irrigation leak, which was UNDER the driveway. I supposed it would be doable, but was fretting about the worst case. It's not 100%, but is 90% better. He said he would come out later and finish the job, thinks some dirt got in a pipe.

**$75**

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**Supposedly someone will pick up our old couch for $200, tomorrow. Fingers crossed!!!

It will be a sweet victory to get the effective cost of our new furniture down to $525. I am at $725, with fierce shopping and credit card rewards. Proceeds from selling old couch will make the effective cost even lower.

Credit Card Update + Florida Plans

May 22nd, 2012 at 07:13 pm

**Redeemed $250 from Citi this year (one-time), will be $250 ($50/month) for Fidelity card, as of next week. Earned $500 from Chase, but they haven't given it to us yet. Probably around the 10th of next month.

Guess we are easily up to $1000!!

**Got the "make one purchase, get $150" card. I have no idea when I will make a purchase. Maybe will pay for lunch date this week (If *I* remember to pay!). I am thinking of just giving the $150 to the kids' school.

**On the double dip, we are probably done with the card. Dh bought a $2000 camera with it, today. (Crossing fingers for no returns, but medical bills/insurance will easily add up to $2000 if that doesn't work). I charged $500 today for continuing education (employer will reimburse). We had already ran up $500 in groceries, gas, utilities, home repairs, etc.

I think that took a whopping 8 days! Now we wait for our $500 reward.

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Dh returned camera #1. HE finally found some online resources that said the camera was a dog (as opposed to "the best thing out there."). So, there is HOPE!

This new camera is more what my parents had in mind, but will cost me another $1200, and does not include any accessories. Oh well!!

{If you missed it, my parents gave him $1,000 to put towards a $2,000 camera}.

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I suppose we need to get going on this rather impromptu Florida thing. Since the camera is going to cost *us* money in the end, I asked dh if we couldn't put off Florida to next summer. He doesn't want to, and I understand. But it was worth asking. I understand that we don't want our second trip of the year *to visit grandparents* to be rendered moot by a death. This is a very rare "Throw caution to the wind/live life" kind of move, for us. On the flip side, we are in an infinitely better financial position to handle this, than any year prior (since having kids). I am of course CAUTIOUS with the economy and all. In a perfect world I'd wait until next summer and get another overtime check - just use that money. A year or so to plan "the biggest vacation we've taken on, ever" would have been preferred! So big because it involves airfare for FOUR. & I won't be able to find $200/person...

But, by the same token, I think we will survive. It's obvious that speeding up the trip by 6-9 months won't make or break us. Which is why I am okay with it. It seems like a fitting celebration for making so many financial goals this year.

The plan?

Airfare: I think I can get airfare for around $1300 - $1500. Though we are going to Orlando, we will fly into Tampa to save a significant sum. Thankfully our home airport is on the cheap side, for flights to Florida. I'd much rather fly from our city, though would be flexible with many regional airports to save a bit. But, anyway, I am pleased I have found both cheap and convenient. A bit of a drive on the Florida side doesn't bother us... We will probably lock this down in a couple of weeks.

I will skip extra mortgage payments for 4-5 months to cover this.

Hotel: You guessed it - free room with MIL's endless timeshare points. But we have to get this booked!!

Rental Car, Disney Parks, Food, etc.: Will just use our meager vacation budget. It might be enough. Unfortunately means we probably can't do much else this year. I usually spread out this $1500-ish throughout the year for a lot more staycation-y/within driving distance kind of things. I'll just have to get over it, but it might make me cranky and remind me why I hate big vacations! !! I really do not enjoy condensing all that *fun* into *only one week out of the year.* Most people like vacations - it just makes me cranky! We will be feeling the pain all summer when we can't go to any amusement parks, camping trips, and such... {Sure, there were many years we had $0 vacation budget, but how quickly we forget!}

We have PLENTY of free things to do, so will get over it.

So, all in all, I am hoping not to touch savings at all for this trip. Though it will slow our mortgage payoff very temporarily. I think this is pretty darn optimistic, but worth a shot!

Figures!!

May 15th, 2012 at 07:03 am

Dh got his new Citi card in the mail yesterday. If I had any inkling, we could have put off our furniture purchase by a few hours (or a day or two, or whatever).

We don't need any big purchases to make our goal, so we will survive. This just would have been a lot *simpler.*

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Life is CRAZY and I can't quite put my finger on it. We try so hard to keep things "simple," that I feel like I am failing a bit, but am too busy to sit down and think about what is going on. I think it is just LIFE. It has been one thing after the other. end to this, tend to that, fix this, do this favor, on and on and on. Usually my To-Do list is not so crazy. These days it feels like it never ends.

& I cringe thinking about June, because we have so much going on (Family celebrations, vacations, etc.). I am hoping things will slow down in July??

The past month is one of those times I could not fathom dh working. At all. I don't know how the working folk do it!! But, I remind myself it could be worse, and we are pretty spoiled. Life has just been a second full-time job, of late.

Hopefully Worth the Wait

May 14th, 2012 at 12:45 pm

**New Furniture Ordered...

All NEW! Boy, what a change for us. We bought new - matching furniture. I believe that is a FIRST. We've bought new pieces before, but never any kind of set.

My poor kids and family - I know I will be some insane "Don't touch my couch!" type for a while. I will get over it, with time. Wink

I met dh at the store today, to put in our order. Will get it tomorrow. We got a sectional, ottoman and a matching recliner.

I was incorrect about the rent-a-center. The stuff we were looking at was actually *brand new.* We just happened to drive by this place a while ago - and never made it over there because they only had weekday hours. We just didn't expect much from the place. Boy - you never know!! We saved about $200 going here. $200 less than we were able to negotiate anywhere else... & we didn't have to haggle. They wouldn't, and we were fine with that. Good price!

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Anyway, the most joyful part of all is that dh and I actually agreed on something - rather quickly and easily. I can't get over it.

I am probably pushing it, but I want to take down this painting we have and put up my dad's framed prints (which we have not agreed where to hang). I think it would make for a nice and complete room remodel. Will see. At the least this would be a good time to "see how it looks." *crossing fingers*

Regardless, I will share before and after pictures. I will tell you we lived a long time with a hodge podge of hand-me-downs and the like. Of course, if "appearances" were more of a priority, there is tons we could have done. But we just didn't care. I think this is one of those things that turn people off to frugality. But, I often say, "It's not forever." This is the end of the road. It was not forever. We now own a very nice looking family room. {Probably nicer than it should be - with rambuctious kids around - that part I may regret}.

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I think we are done with the big purchases. Phew!!

"Appearances" are very ugly, but reality is not so bad.

New living room furniture:

$1,250 with taxes and delivery
- 200 {hoping to sell old furniture}
- 500 Chase cash reward (already earned)
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$ 550

I think dh is optimistic on selling the old couch, but WHO KNOWS!

$550 cash out? $750? Either way - thank you Chase!

Saved $200+?

May 13th, 2012 at 04:10 pm

I'll pat myself on the back for this one. Usually dh is a little more handy. BUT, a plastic piece broke on the main attachment to our vacuum cleaner. I said, "Can't we just duct tape it?" I think he was skeptical at first...

Problem is, we couldn't find the duct tape. So, yesterday dh picked some up for me. Plus, hey, it was black with flames:



Before we went the super lazy/cheap route, I peeked online to be sure. I immediately saw new replacement parts for over $200. Um, NO THANKS!

Dh just put it together for me and moved the couch for me so I could vacuum and dust behind/under the couch, in case it gets replaced tomorrow. Worked like a charm!! It was workable before, but very frustrating. Like "bend over, hold it at a weird angle, and curse every time it pops off anyway." Which I only did this long because we had no duct tape, and we have been so busy with other things.

Anyway, this was a HUGE improvement. Like new! & I think it will hold for a long time. Will see...

Which is extra good because our front door lock just broke. Rolleyes I know we are delaying the inevitable on a few things around the house, but it really is "every little thing is freaking breaking" year. So, a little thinking outside the box slows the bleed a bit. Phew!

Next week we need to get our irrigation and lock fixed. Those are a little more pressing.

Free 8 x 10 Walgreens - Today

May 12th, 2012 at 07:42 am

Did you get your free 8 x 10?

Coupon Code: FREE4ME

First Geocache

May 11th, 2012 at 08:31 pm



Today was a VERY accomplished day.

First, we FINALLY got around to our very first geocache. We did two that were right by our house. The first location wasn't quite so pretty (abandoned home lots), but the other location was very nice. It was basically down the street from our home - an area we frequently bike ride.

I can think of several great locations by us to leave one. We will have to think about that, and come up with something. Just chalk it up to one more reason it is so nice to live in both the city and the country. VERY unique. Any geocahce we put out will receive a TON of visitors, but there is so much in our backyard that is so distant from civilization. I've got several locations in mind!!

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Accomplishments of the Day:

**Took first week-day off since December. Because I COULD. I was admittedly very busy today, but a quiet 2-day weekend sounds divine, in addition to my busy Friday.

**1st graders had a Mother's Day Tea. VERY sweet, as these things always are. BTW, LM brought home a Mother's Day gift a few days ago, from art class. TOO cute and precious. A ceramic kind of wall hanging thing, but the pictures he used to wrap it were so cute. The kind of thing that would melt any mom's heart.

**Dh and I did some furniture shopping today. True to our history, we are heavily leaning towards the "First thing we saw." {With ANY big purchase - though I don't think we have ever agreed on any furniture before, ever, so this is new!!} I don't know why it always plays out like that, with big purchases though. We will look at 10 options to be on the safe side, but it's always like the first thing we see and like. I want to hit a big warehouse tomorrow to be totally sure, but mostly plan to order it from the first place, tomorrow (we didn't ask them how long on delivery). With our $500 cash credit reward (can redeem tomorrow, I hope!), I doubt we will spend much more than $500 of our own money on furniture.

I mostly feel like, "We should have done this AGES ago." I thought the furniture I wanted would cost a LOT more, but in the end it is cheaper than what we already own. I think it is mostly the economy. We stopped at a couple of other places today that we remembered being WAY over-priced before. At one I found a bed for LM. We might go order that tomorrow, too. Poor kid is seven and doesn't have a bed (just a mattress), so both of these things have been in the works forever. This was the first decent bed we saw - but JUST what we wanted, and a decent price. I didn't really want to spend the money in 2010 with all our medical expenses, etc. & we bought him a mattress sometime, and wanted to spread out the bed purchase a bit. But yeah, it's been a while.

Craigslist was a big dud. Inquired about two items but never heard back from either, though posters continually re-listed. Maybe they should check their e-mail or voice mails. Rolleyes Or do we sound big, bad and menacing? Wink The new prices were comparable to used, anyway. Though we will have to pay for shipping and tax. Well, will try to haggle some of it down. Will also get 3% credit reward, so that helps.

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Today I also:

**Tackled many fiscal chores in my side bar (was actually able to do most of it online, so saved a lot of time - guess I could have done all this stuff sooner).

**Got my tetanus shot (overdue, but never see my primary physician, which is where I needed to get the shot. I did go to optometry, OB, and surgeon last year, but never able to get a shot during those appointments). Feels good to get that done!

I told the nurse that was *easy,* like my husband said it would be. She acted like I was CRAZY. Admittedly, arm is very sore now. But easy easy shot. Glad to be done with it though.

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Oh, my HMO sent me a $5,000 bill for dh's MRI. Not even worth getting upset over. He called today just to be sure. They obviously treated him like he was "uninsured" again. ??? Seems they should get that straightened out - very annoying!! {They told us $1100 - and that is in the ballpark of what they usually charge}.

Oh, and he gets his results in like 2 weeks. ??? All we can figure is "No news is good news." Admittedly, dh did not e-mail his doctor. I certainly would have. I think this is bull crap. It's never taken more than a couple of days for them to get back to us- even on the last few MRIs which showed absolutely nothing. On the flip side, it is quite obvious they have nothing to report, if they can't bother to send him any results for 2-3 weeks. So, all we can figure is that no news is good news.

Credit Card Doings - Double Dip is Official

May 8th, 2012 at 08:28 pm

**I think the Chase closes in 2 days. We were thrown off by airfare refund, BUT I made a couple of donations and dh got gas and groceries, etc.

Today it hit me to just put the rest to a health insurance prepayment. (Not sure it will clear in time - DOH!). But I only needed about $130. I prepaid $150. Thus, we don't have to wait another month for our $500 reward. Might get it this week!!

**I decided now was the best time for the "Double Dip" attempt. Dh got an offer that expires next month. It's for a Citi card he applied for reward and closed - last year.

WE decided now was a good time since we have a few large purchases. We need to spend $3,000, and I am expecting a large MRI bill. We may also buy some airfare and/or some furniture. So, what the heck. At least I won't feel too put out if they give us trouble for double dipping. {I don't expect it will be a problem at all though, since Citi always bends over backwards for dh}.

Another $500 reward - woohoo!!

**I applied for a "one purchase - $150 cash reward" deal that I got in the mail.

They did not approve me online - said they would get back to me. !!! I don't see why I wouldn't be approved, but will see. I'd generally hold out for something bigger, BUT I have not applied for one reward this year. & it's nice that it is an easy one.

Fingers crossed!

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**When we are done with Citi, I still have my eye on one more reward that dh has not done yet. I will start keeping an eye out since the deals seem to come and go - will jump on it if I see a big offer. (Or maybe he will get a personal invitation one of these days? I think it is one he did 2-3 years ago?)

Refund

May 5th, 2012 at 10:19 pm

File this under *It never hurts to ask.*

Dh requested airline refund just a couple of days ago?? Refund has already been approved. !! For full amount!

Since I expected *nothing,* this is beyond awesome. Will still believe when I see it.

Will most likely apply to a Florida trip somewhere down the road. (More grandparents to visit...)

Only minor downside is refund is going to reward card we just finished. Will delay $500 reward for one month. Obviously better in the end.

I often seem to luck out with these things. I once missed a super cheapie flight (no refunds/options) and was able to work it out - no prob. This reminds me of that time. Even though all the fine print says *no refunds ever.* Phew!

Getting Caught Up

May 4th, 2012 at 06:03 am

Gah, what a crazy crazy week!

**Not a lot of funeral type experience here. Most our relatives live in the Mid-West - never went to any Grandparent funeral, etc. Anyway, so I keep reading in the forums how the bereaved are often bombarded with ridiculous amounts of flowers. So when my mom started mentioning all the flowers that people wanted to send her or to Granmda (who passed), I told her I would like to give to a charity, instead. Which I think I already mentioned.

BUT, I went to be with my mom on the day they scattered Grandma's ashes. (My mom just isn't up to traveling, and so my dad went in her place to pick up some things and help sort out affairs). I felt very compelled to bring her some flowers. I just got her the beautiful $5 mini roses they have at our grocer. They just really have the best flowers around. I was SO surprised (& relieved?) when I showed up and she had no flowers. I said, "I thought everyone was sending you flowers." She said, "No - I requested everyone make a donation instead, after I talked to you. That was such a great idea!" So, I was very pleased to hear that. & then didn't feel so silly for being compelled to bring *some* flowers in the end.

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**It's hard to keep up with the closing restaurants around here. I don't think it's overly economy-specific. Restaurants are a tough business!

So, the boss's wife took me out to lunch yesterday. Told me to meet her at this crappy Thai restaurant. But the name was different, but I was sure that was the location.

OMG - it was SO GOOD. New ownership - still Thai food. Great lunch specials with huge portions. This will be a great lunch spot for dh and I (where lunch for 2 won't break the bank).

**Reminds me: some how; some way I got reservations at the cooking school next week. I am meeting my friend there - I ditched her for dh last time. IT seems we have been jinxed in that every time we try, the school is closed, there is a private party, or something. She has never been. So, fingers crossed! {Though, maybe this is one of those things that should be kept secret - I am starting to think. It seems to be harder and harder to get reservations}.

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**Cell Phone News:

--I got several coupons set up that are phone-only. So am VERY pleased about that. For example, we were getting a lot of $5-off coupons from Round Table, but literally in the last few months, those are suddenly only available if you have a smart phone. Rolleyes Certainly won't make up the cost of the monthly service, but will help. I am hoping a lot of small savings will start to add up.

So happy to get that $5-off coupon back. Woohoo!

--My favorite by far is the online deposits. My CU has had online scan deposits for a long time. BUT, our scanner is on a separate computer, and it really takes a while to scan. Since I have a windows phone, it doesn't work for me. BUT, dh downloaded the app on his phone. I got paid the other day so tried it out. I actually had 2 checks to deposit - VERY awesome. I think it took about 10 seconds, and I had no idea what I was doing. It was just like, "Let me try this out." Okay - that was EASY!

--I am going to have to work on a good balance. It's a big adjustment going from a phone "for emergency use primarily" to a device that does so much. It is going to take me a while, I am sure, to find a good balance. Obviously I am not going to keep it set aside and never use it. But, I don't want to be attached to my phone 24/7. So I will have to work on finding the right balance.

--Oh yeah - no accessories needed. By some miracle, the new phone fits perfectly in my ancient cell case. & I like that the case is so unassuming. It doesn't scream "expensive toy in here!!! Take me!!" Also, the receiver (in car - plays over radio frequency) has been working out nice for MP3 player, and I tested it out with the phone today. So I can get music, navigation, and even texts/e-mails read to me through car speakers. I just happened to get the receiver a few months ago - was like $10 or $15! I think I am good. I am always a believer in a nice case to prolong the life of my electronics, but am glad I don't have to spend more $$ in this case. {Though I would have used our Amazon credit}.

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**Getting caught up:

--Just paid all the credit cards off (April charges). Dh can close the Citi at any time - it's paid and we got the reward already.

--Redeemed $50 credit card reward to ROTH (Fidelity rewards card). Was almost there, but needed just a few more charges. Since we are done with Citi and Chase, we had enough charges on this one this month (like $200??? - Was all I needed to redeem another $50).

--Reminds me, made first 2012 ROTH contribution. Well, first non-$50-reward contribution. Might be up to $1000 for 2012. ($750 + 50 + 50 + 50...)

--Cleaned old things off old phone, getting ready to turn off Verizon tonight.

--I am hoping today will be a really slow/quiet "catch up" kind of day at work. The last 4 days have just been INSANE on many levels. {Not to mention how behind I am on many things after 4 months of tax season}.

So, Phew!!

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ETA: Dh got $50 for signing up for some financial app that I can't get. Woohoo!

This & That

May 2nd, 2012 at 06:43 am

Just been a wee bit crazy over here.

**I'll believe it when I see it, but supposedly we can get refunds from United, on our tickets.

Neither of us wants to go anywhere, at all, so will just take the refund. Makes it easy since we are both 100% on the same page. {We had decided even if $0 credit or refund, to just let it go. No point spending more money on something neither of us is remotely interested in}.

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**Dh's phone bit the dust, so we upgraded our cell phones and switched carriers. {Have had Verizon forever, and absolutely no issues with them ever, BUT, their data plans are just absurdly priced}.

In a perfect world, I would have wanted to wait another 6-18 months. But oh well! The world is not perfect!

We basically traded cable for smart phones.

We had made a conscious decision a while ago to not renew our contract with Verizon - knew we weren't sticking with them in the long run. So with a dead phone, just seemed like the path of least resistance.

I will tell you that I told dh to "talk to the hand" because he just got so illogical with the whole thing. "We *all* need to upgrade our phones - or I will die!" That about sums it up. But, when his phone was really dead, he came down to the level of logical. All we really needed to do was discuss numbers. We both talk numbers, and the numbers weren't bad. & to my defense, we are saving $400/month today that we weren't last year. SO yeah, I thought this was a horrible/stupid/expensive/wasteful thing 6 months ago. But today is totally different. & like I Said, once we could have a logical/not-hyper-emotional discussion on the subject, I Was okay with that.

Plus, dh OWES ME! That is for sure. Big Grin

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Anyway, we are on a family plan with our folks, so I had a $700 charge for new phones. Which means we are done with the Sapphire, rather early and unexpectedly. I need to apply for another reward card! Soon!

Dh bought a $200 phone - mine was free (after rebate). My parents owe me some money back for their phone purchases.

I am still not sure on the monthly costs - depends on the taxes. We are going from $55/month to $95 or so. I think paying $20/month more per phone, for all we are getting, is reasonable. But I will still choke at that "$95" bill for a while. I suppose I already felt we were paying too much for cell service. I wouldn't be surprised if I felt I was getting a much better value in the end - at $95. Our old phones were so basic - primarily used for emergency. I know we will be saving some money with the phones, too. {Access to more coupons, etc. May never need to buy a camera or a GPS again. & the list goes on...}

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**In other news, dh had his annual MRI yesterday.

Health insurer's usual MO is to charge about $50 up front, and then send a bill in a year or two. Rolleyes {Taking 1+ years to bill, I think is just ridiculous and annoying!}

SO, when he shows up they tell him the MRI is $1100 (expected). & how much can he pay? So he says, "How much do I have to pay?" They said nothing is required, but they prefer to receive money up front. Of course his reply is, "give me a discount, or tell me how much I *have to* pay - otherwise I will just wait for the bill."

But seriously, you want to be paid sooner? Send the bill sooner! Give an incentive to pay sooner! Give me a $5 discount, and I would have paid yesterday. Wink Doesn't have to be much.

I need to apply for a new credit card reward, anyway. This bill will go a long ways to a nice reward, if I ever receive the bill.