Being uninsured sucks.  I still make an effort to stay on top of my medical care. I go to the dermatologist once a year, the dentist twice a year and I also go for my annual check up at my primary care doctor.  All of this, for the most part, is paid out of pocket.  Here’s how I do it.

  • In my monthly budget, I have $100 budgeted for “medical and dental costs”.  Some months it’s a little more and some months a little less.
  • Although I don’t carry medical insurance, I do have the Ameriplan dental plan.  It is not insurance but it is a discount plan that my dentist accepts.  It costs $20 a month for my entire family and saves me about $300 a year.  After the $240 annual cost, I come out about $60 or more ahead each year.  This plan saves me about $50 per cleaning and checkup and then another $40 or so per procedure (fillings, emergency care, sealants, etc)
  • My dermatologist is really expensive but he is THE BEST at what he does.  When I go in for my skin checks and all the other stuff he does, it is usually more than I expect.  I pay $100 that day (from the budget) and then once I get the bill showing the balance due, I IMMEDIATELY call the billing office and set up a payment plan to pay off the balance.  In addition, they do give me a “cash/self pay discount” which most doctors will do if you just ask (it is usually at least 10%)
  • With my primary care doctor, I pay an $80 “deposit” when I go in and then they bill me for the balance.  After I had my last checkup, I got the balance for the remainder of the bill and it seemed a little high.  After 3 phone calls (totaling about 1 hours worth of my time), they figured out that I had been billed on the wrong code and my bill for $175 was really supposed to be for $102 once it was coded correctly and my “cash discount” was applied.  I saved $73 by spending one hour of my time making phone calls. ALWAYS call and ask if you think something is wrong.  It doesn’t cost anything to ask! You should know what you are paying for!
  • Be honest with your providers.  I make it very clear that I am a self-pay patient.  All of my doctors have been very helpful in finding prescriptions that are on the free prescription list at Publix or on the $4 prescription list at Walmart.  One time I needed a prescription that was $175!  There was no other option available but my doctor checked their room of samples and found a full sized tube of the prescription for me and gave it to me for free !  As an added bonus, the package had an online survey for me to take and that got me a $25 Amazon gift card for taking the survey!  Don’t forget to ask about “over the counter” medications as well.  They often have lots of samples to give away so don’t be shy!
  • Ask your doctor about free clinics.  The primary care doctor group that I see also runs an after hours free clinic for patients without insurance.  While I go to their regular office for my checkups, all of my other visits can be done at the after hours clinic for free and they also have access to my medical records because it is run by the same group of doctors.  Going to this after hours clinic can also get me reduced fees on any necessary labwork that I need done.

Hopefully this post gives you a few new ideas on how to save some money on medical care.  Your health is important and you need to take care of yourself, even if you don’t have insurance.

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In today’s post I am going to spill the beans on one of my BIGGEST secrets:  How I get FREE movie tickets

I routinely go to FREE movie screenings and premieres.  This means that I get to see movies BEFORE they actually open in the movie theaters.  For instance, tomorrow night I am going to the Orlando premiere of “Fast and Furious 6” (four free tickets) and then Thursday I am going to see the Oviedo premiere of “The Internship” (two free tickets).  With ticket prices here in central Florida at $10 or more per person, this is over $60 worth of free movie tickets!

Kristen and I with Trevor Moore, from the movie
“Miss March”

There are usually two ways I get the tickets (both are totally FREE):

  • I registered at Gofobo.com and I check there regularly for screenings in my area.  Sometimes there are “open screenings” you just click and get the tickets.  Other times there are “ticket drawings” you enter and if selected, you get free tickets.  I have gotten a few emails from them telling me a special code to use on their site to get the tickets.  I usually check back daily and I always enter the drawings
  • I “liked” WildAboutMovies on Facebook and check back in there a few times a day.  They post notices on things like when Universal hosts their own movie screenings and starts offering passes.

In addition to the free tickets, there are often other “perks” at these events.  Free posters, sometimes you get to meet some of the stars, and a few times we have gotten goodie bags too!  The pictures in this post are of my friend Kristen and I at the premiere of “Miss March” a few years ago.  We got to meet the stars of the movie Zach Cregger and Trevor Moore (who are also stars of the TV show “The Whitest Kids You Know”).

Kristen and I with Zach Cregger, from the movie
“Miss March”

I do need to point out that we tend to show up about an hour before the time on the passes to make sure we get in and get seats!  These screenings are usually overbooked because they want to screen the movie to a full house.  Also, typically, you cannot take your cell phones, etc. in with you so be sure to leave them in the car or at home.  They are VERY serious about this!

 

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Earlier this week one of Ben’s teachers and her daughter both came down with a stomach flu.  Now, it seems Ben has caught the same bug.  Yuck.  It is just a normal part of having kiddos in school …. they bring things home with them!

A few years ago, I hit upon this brilliant (yet obvious) idea of using the 48 oz. large tubs (3 pounds) that our butter comes in as, well, “puke buckets”.  Here’s what’s great about this idea:

  • They are free!  All you have to do is clean them out once the butter is gone.
  • It gives me the chance to recycle them and reuse them
  • It is MUCH nicer to throw up in a clean butter dish than it is to stick your head in a toilet or a garbage can
  • Since we have so many of them, we can keep one in every room so that there is always one nearby for emergencies when someone cannot make it to the bathroom in time
  • You can even keep a few clean ones in the car (along with the lids so that nothing spills)
  • They are smaller and easier to manage for little kiddos but they are also large enough to hold a lot!
  • Once they have been used, you can either clean them and reuse them again or just throw them away

In addition to having a few of these butter tubs always on hand, I also make sure that I always have these items in my kitchen:

  • Lysol or Clorox wipes for all the door handles, faucet handles and toilet handles
  • Lots of washrags
  • Lysol spray for disinfecting mattresses
  • A few extra bed sheets and towels
  • Baby wipes, kleenex, paper towels and toilet paper
  • Crackers, chicken soup, dry cereal and a clear soda like Sprite or ginger ale

Keeping these items on hand and ready to use makes dealing with a stomach virus a lot easier (because going to the store with sick kiddos, or when you are sick, sucks!)! If you plan ahead, you can grab these things when they go on sale or whenever you have a coupon too!

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With Ben’s birthday this month, I was on the hunt for some new games for his Leapster 2.  I ran across a great deal at the Just Between Friends sale that I posted about last month.  I ended up getting him 14 new games for basically nothing!  Then I realized that the case he was using to hold the 14 games he already had would NOT hold 14 more games!  He was using a padded, zippered black cosmetic bag to keep all his games in and would just keep the Leapster loose without being in a case.

I started looking for a case for his Leapster that would also hold all (soon to be) 28 Leapster games.  Most of the cases on the market hold 1 or 2 games and also the Leapster but I needed something better than that.  I determined that it would be great if it was “padded” and could hold everything and had a handle.  Then it occurred to me that we had a few leftover lunchboxes from the past few school years!

I quickly dug out last years Star Wars lunch box and sure enough everything fit!  It is one of those “soft-sided” lunchboxes so it was padded too!  Of course it also had the handle!  Another plus is that it will hold MANY more games!  Whoop!  I love it when I come across a solution that works for FREE using something I already had on hand!

Needless to say, Ben is loving the new “Leapster case” because he loved that Star Wars lunch box! I can’t wait to see his face when he gets the 14 new games I got for him too! Here is what it looks like inside with everything in it (before the new games are added) !

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As many of you know, I used to be pretty active with coupon shopping (you can find all of my couponing posts HERE).  Now that there is an Aldi near my home (less than five minutes away), my need for coupons has greatly decreased.  I let my two newspaper subscriptions run out and then cancelled them. I thought that would be the end of my couponing.  Apparently this is not the case.

While I am definitely not couponing as much, I find it interesting that once I stopped my subscriptions, I continued to get coupons.  Every week, there is a free newspaper distributed to my neighborhood (by the regular newspaper delivery guy) and in that free paper are the same coupons that were in the Sunday paper!  All this time I had been paying for two subscriptions when I could have been getting the coupons for free!  Jeesh!  Oh, and since my single, male neighbor doesn’t use his paper I get that one too! So, same amount of coupons FREE!

So, if you have a newspaper subscription just for the sake of getting coupons, start watching the driveways in your area.  If you see that they are getting a free weekly paper, maybe you can cancel your subscription and save a few dollars.

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We only have six weeks left before school is out for the summer.  Can’t believe that they school year went by soooooo fast!  I have started kicking around ideas for things to put on our summer to-do list.  Having gone through years of therapy with Ben, I try to really structure our summers so we have time for fun as well as get some things accomplished.  He does not do therapy during the summer – we work on getting those goals accomplished at home so we can have some family time without being overly scheduled.

Here are a few ideas to get you started planning some summer fun of your own!

  • Sign up over at KidsBowlFree.com so that the kiddos can bowl for free all summer!  They also have a form for the adults to sign up at a rate of $25 or so for four adults on the pass ~ that is a HUGE savings!
  • Regal Movie Theaters does the Summer Movie Express with $1 movies on certain dates during the summer
  • Michael’s craft stores have the free Passport to Fun kids crafts during the summer. Check your local store for details.
  • Home Depot has free Kids Workshops one Saturday each month
  •  Cinemark movie theaters has the Summer Movie Clubhouse program where it costs $5 to go see all ten films (or $1 per film if tickets purchased separately)
  • Going to the public library is free and ours has a great selection of movies and books that keep my kiddos entertained for hours and hours and hours at a time
  • Check around at local museums, science centers, etc to find out when their “free entrance days” are
  • We spend a lot of time outdoors, and usually go to the beach, springs or local pool at least once a week. I make sure to pack a cooler with drinks and snacks so I don’t have to buy any (BIG savings there!)
  • Family game day is always fun! We do board games or video games and snacks
  • Friday is ALWAYS movie night at our home ~ complete with movies from Redbox or the library or Netflix, pizza, soda, popcorn and candy
  • Pinterest is a WONDERFUL source for cheap ideas to keep the kiddos entertained!  There are tons and tons of great ideas and things to try!  Over spring break we have used a few of them . DIY slurpees were a total HIT   and my son thought that taking a bath in the dark with glow in the dark bracelets in the water was super COOL!
  • It takes a little planning but lots of fun can be had for very little money!  If you sign up for emails from Groupon.comLivingSocial.com , and HalfOffDepot.com  you can get INCREDIBLE deals for local attractions that might otherwise be out of your price range. For example:  I just got 3 tickets to CoCo Key Water park that would have cost me over $70 but I paid $31 !  That is more than half off and wayyyyyy less than the cost of one ticket to Wet N Wild!  We have also gotten great deals on ice cream, mini golf, an indoor trampoline arena, Monkey Joes, and various restaurants all for more than 50 % off!
  • Shopping centers and malls offer a lot of entertainment for free!  Here in Orlando we are lucky and have Downtown Disney which hosts a T-Rex Cafe complete with dino bones excavation area (free to walk through and see the dinos and play in the excavation area), Lego shop (free to go in and play with all the cool legos!), free boat ride across the waterway to the shops, and lots of other free and neat things to do and see!  Most malls have an indoor play area these days and the mall also offers an opportunity for the older kiddos to window shop.
  • Teach a skill ~ my kiddos all loved learning to cook and sew!  You can have some fun, get things done (hey, you have to eat anyhow!) and teach a valuable life skill all at the same time.  Pinterest is a great source of kid friendly recipes and craft / sewing ideas too!
  • On the weekends we usually wander over to the Dollar Tree so that the kiddos can spend some of their allowance money (you can see my post on WHY my kids get allowances HERE).  Kids get thrilled even when the only have $1 to spend!  At the Dollar Tree, the possibilities are endless!
  • Get a cheap game from Gamestop.  Not many people know that if you go into Gamestop and tell them that you are looking for Wii games under $5 (or whatever system you have) they will print a list of all the titles they have in stock that are under that price!  $5 for at least a full day of fun is a deal!  You can also rent the newer video games at Redbox for $2 plus tax.

Hopefully this list of ideas gets you inspired to schedule some summer fun of your own!  I would love to hear back from you if you have any ideas to add to my list!

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Last year my friend Tiffany mentioned to me that she was going to a huge kids consignment sale and she invited me to go with her.  I declined.  Two weeks ago, while we were having coffee, she mentioned that it was time for the JBF sale again (JBF stands for Just Between Friends).  She was telling me how she started selling her stuff at the semi-annual sales that are held here in Orlando.  Although I clean out my kiddos closets on a regular basis, I decided to go through them again and see what I could find just to try it out and see how it works.

The picture below is of the clothing area at our local Orlando area JBF sale (Just Between Friends).  This is JUST THE CLOTHING! I couldn’t even fit it all into the picture!

Here is a picture of the Toy area which was really just FULL of name brand toys that were more than half off!  I could NOT believe the deals that were available! Again, this was not even all of it!  There was a ton of stuff behind me!

So, after spending the last week somewhat immersed in learning all about how the JBF consignment sales work, here is what I learned from my own experience.

  • You probably have all the supplies you need in order to participate.  You need internet access, a printer with some light colored card stock, tape, hangers, safety pins, etc.  There are people who say that they had to go out and spend a lot of money to get their stuff ready but I just cannot see why that would be.  I did go out and buy some shoelaces for a pair of sneakers that I was selling but other than that, really no out of pocket expense to me.
  • The cleaner the items are, the better they will sell!  I took some time to put my items together nicely and tried to package them well.  Also, make sure you have working batteries in battery operated toys, etc.
  • Volunteering pays off!  Here in Orlando, if you volunteer you get a BUNCH of benefits such as:  they waive the $10 consignor fee, you get 70% of your sales instead of 60%, you get to go to the PRE-pre-sale (first dibs on the good stuff!), etc.  Definitely worth my time!
  • You will make more money from your items than you probably would at a garage sale (yes, even after the 30-40% cut that they take)
  • If you see something you want, grab it and buy it now because it probably won’t be there when you go back to look for it!
  • There is a nice area for Mommy and Daddy things to be sold too!
  • There is the risk of theft.  Yep, I said it.  I kept good track of my items and there are four things that did not come home but don’t show up as “sold” in the system.  I have been told that sometimes if an item is manually keyed in instead of being scanned, it won’t show up as “sold” in the system but you will be paid for it if it did sell.  They have you sign a waiver before you drop your stuff off so if you have issues with this, READ the darn thing before you sign it 😉
  • Know your prices!  This goes for items you are selling and also items you are looking to buy.  As my Mother would say, “Price it to sell it or price it to keep it!”  Be aware of the value of the items you are selling!  Ben went with me to the half-off sale they have on the last day and he got a Nerf Big Bow with some of his money.  He paid $2.50.  I looked on Ebay when I got home and the darn thing is worth $30 used on Ebay!  ACK!  I priced my items along the lines of what they would actually sell for on Ebay (or cheaper, depending on the item)
  • Even if you don’t have clothes, if you have other kids stuff to sell, go for it!  I had NO clothing whatsoever to sell! I did have two pairs of nice sneakers for sale, but no clothing, and I made some money.

You can click over to the JUST BETWEEN FRIENDS jbf website HERE to see what it’s all about and get more details on a sale near you (they are Nationwide!)

Overall, I had a VERY good experience with my first Just Between Friends sale and I will definitely be participating in the JBF sales in the future!  As a matter of fact, I have already started a box of goodies to take to the next sale! Thanks Tiffany!

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The other day I had a bunch of errands to run and also needed to get cash out to give the kiddos their allowances (you can see my original post on deciding to give children an allowance or not HERE).  I thought to myself, “Well, I will just get cash back when I use my debit card at Dollar Tree this morning.”  Then I remembered that Dollar Tree charges a fee to get cash back (I think it is $1).

Now I know that doesn’t seem like a big deal.  I would hypothetically save time and gas by just getting the cash back and willingly paying the $1 fee.  Then it occurred to me that I would be driving right by my credit union on the way to take Ben to school.  So I figured that, for the sake of argument, I would stop at the credit union to take the cash out and see just how long it takes me.

Here is what I determined:

  • It took me 4 minutes
  • It wasn’t out of my way
  • I didn’t waste any gas

I saved $1 in 4 minutes.  There are 60 minutes in an hour and 60 minutes divided by 4 minutes is 15.  By stopping at the credit union and getting the cash out, I was being paid an “effective rate” of $15 an hour. If I stop at the credit union once a week while on the way to Ben’s school, instead of just getting cash back at the Dollar Tree, I will save over $50 a year. Yep, I’ll take that 😉

 

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Usually I host family get-togethers at my house.  It is easier on Ben (the Autism just doesn’t make it easy to travel to other houses).  I always make a TON of food and anyone who wants to take home leftovers is more than welcome to take some home.  This brings up the issue of what to put it in.

A few years ago I noticed that whenever I was getting ready for family dinners, since I was making so much food, I would have several plastic bowls with lids that would normally go into the garbage (sour cream bowls, cottage cheese bowls, cool whip bowls, etc).  While I don’t like to keep these for storage here at my house (I tend to use more heavy duty storage containers), I realized that it would be great to have them on hand for whenever someone wants to take home leftovers from my house!  No need to worry about returning the bowl, they can either keep it for themselves or throw it away!  Plus, at least they get used at least one more time before going into the trash 🙂
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Recently, Ben has not been feeling well. He had a sinus infection and missed three days of school last week because he was coughing so badly!  I have found that peppermint hot chocolate really helps clear the sinuses and just makes you feel better!  I was getting him hot chocolate almost every day at the Cumberland Farms store near us and it was “only” $1 per cup but then everyone in the household started wanting some and I soon realized that I needed to find a cheaper way to do this.

I got some peppermint extract but it was just too difficult to put only “one drop” into each cup of hot chocolate.  After thinking about it,  I realized that I could just make his hot chocolate as usual (from a regular packaged mix) and then add one or two Junior Mint candies to it!  Stir the hot chocolate until they have dissolved and it was just the right amount of mint!  He loves it!

A “movie theater” sized 4 oz. box of Junior Mints has about 48 pieces in it.  That is enough for at least 24 cups of peppermint hot chocolate!  Cheaper to use and easier to find than the extract!

Here is the cost breakdown (rounded):

  • Prepackaged hot chocolate mix bought at Aldi: 10 in a box for $1.19 = 12 cents each cup
  • Junior Mints bought at Dollar tree: $1 for a box of 48 (use 2) = 4 cents per cup
  • Total cost to make a cup:  16 cents (instead of $1)
  • Total cost to make 24 cups:  $3.84 (instead of  $24 !!!!!)

Not only is that a GREAT savings ($20 extra bucks stay in MY pocket!) but I love the fact that I can keep this on hand so whenever I need to I can just make some up instead of running up to the convenience store!

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