Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Summer Time!!

The weather has turned for the better, so it's time for us to start thinking about our summer plans. Obviously we aren't going on a huge expensive vacation, we plan on maybe a couple of smaller things closer to home, but still trying to keep things a bit exciting for the kiddos. Here's just a tiny list of what we hope to do this summer:

1. Memorial Day Parade
Nathan and Matt will be marching in the Wayland Memorial Day Parade with Scouts. It should be pretty fun! We always go and cheer them on from the sidewalk. If Lauren can hold it together, we might be able to picnic in the park afterwards? Or maybe we'll end up at Grandma's house at the lake for some swimming? Either way, it's going to be a fun day!

2. Family Game Night
We're hosting a family game night in June for some of our friends. We'll have a potluck, plenty of things for the kids to do and play lots of board games and stuff that we already have on hand.

3. Family Cookout at Camp
Matt works for the YMCA camp where Nathan goes all summer, and one night a week they do a parent show and a cookout. We go every single week! It's a night we don't have to cook dinner and the kids get to play outside as well. Nathan ends up spending the night that night and it's always a fun time for him.

4. Michigan Adventure
It's a smaller scale amusement park not terribly far from our house. They have a couple of days where we can go on the cheap (through SavingsAngel and Scouts), so we're going to have to pick a day and go for it. They have a huge waterpark there, so that's perfect for the kids, who absolutely adore being in the water.

5. Family Picnics!
Oh my word, can I even start to figure out how many of these we'll be going to? Family reunions, informal gatherings, birthday parties, etc. It seems like we have one at least every other weekend! It's so fun though to see the kids play with their extended family and have that time together. We have a mesh bag that we keep plastic plates, cups, and silverware in so that we can just toss it in the car and head out. I hit a great sale the other day at Meijer and loaded up on things like pasta salad so that we can just throw one together for the last minute stuff.

6. Vacation Bible School
I am volunteering at our vacation bible school this year since it's at night, and my intention is to take Lauren and Nick with me. I am going to be ushering around kindergarten kids, so my kids will blend right on in there. They'll have so much fun, I just know it. I love that our VBS is at night this year because I'll actually be able to get involved and see the program.

7. The Park
We have 2 very nice parks by our house. One is walking distance, less than 10 minutes away and it's pretty quiet there. The kids love to play there! It's a great way to end our day. Last night I braved it and took all 3 kids to the little park a bit farther away that is right on Gun Lake. They just played on the equipment there, but we are going to test it out and see how it goes if just one adult goes with them and we attempt swimming. The water is very shallow all the way out to the swimming line, so it should be a pretty reasonable thing to try and pull off. There is no charge for the park Monday-Thursday, and $5 if you go on the weekends. We wouldn't go on the weekend anyways since it's just crazy busy with out of towners.

8. Misc Other Things...
Though we don't have everything precisely nailed down yet, we know that there will be some camping coming up, an overnighter at the Whitecaps, and some scouting events. Just a little planning ahead on these things really do help keep the costs low and the day fun!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Urgent Care--Home Sweet Home!

The running joke is that I should get a frequent visitor punch card for urgent care since it seems like we are taking a kid there so often that they often recognize us by name when we walk in the door. Now part of that could be the "small town" of it all, or it could just mean that we visit the office more often than your typical family.

Today I packed up Nick and we headed out after him being absolutely miserable the past few days. Of course they couldn't find anything wrong with him, which means we paid our co-pay and were shoved out the door, but as a parent, you second guess yourself all the time. Do you want your name to be the one who ends up in the paper because the kid was sick for 3 days before going to the Dr only to find out that they had some rare bacterial infection that spreads like wildfire and infected all of west MI? Nope, I think not, so off to urgent care we went!

Medical expenses. Ugh. Just a part of life and you have to pay them. But there are ways to minimize the costs and try and manage them as best you can.

1. Do you have flex spending accounts at work? You can set aside pre-tax dollars and use that money towards co-pays, prescriptions and other things. I say "other things" because the new healthcare bill is going to impact flex accounts quite a bit. What's true today might not be true this next plan year, so I am sticking with it for now. We set aside a nice chunk of change and base it on what we used last year. Unfortunately this year we budgeted way too low and my account is already empty in May and the new plan year doesn't start until September 1.

2. What's your co-pay? We pay a $10 co-pay for regular Dr visits and urgent care visits, so we tend to go that route first. Our highest co-pay is for the emergency room, so we almost never go there. If we do end up there, it's because urgent care sent us there.

3. Ask for generic! Typically if you need a prescription, they'll ask, "Do you have insurance?" Yes, I do, but don't ASSUME that I have rock star prescription coverage! I always ask if there is a generic drug that we can use and if it doesn't work, then and only then will we go for a brand name drug.

4. Ask for samples. When I was starting on beta blockers for my migraines, I asked if the Dr had samples around before filling my prescriptions. He was tweaking the dose a bit the first few months, so I hated the idea of paying for something and tossing it because I needed a different dose.

5. Check for prescription drug programs. Here are just a few that I am aware of in west MI:
Meijer free antibiotics, prenatal vitamins and Metformin
Sam's Club $4 Generics (no membership required)
Target $4/30day, $10/90day Generic Program
Wal-Mart $4/30day, $10/90day Generic Program
Family Fare $4/30day, $10/90day
D&W $4/30day, $10/90day
K-Mart $5/$10/$15/$25 Program

6. Visit the manufacturer's website for the prescriptions you take most often. The medication I take for my breakthrough migraines works out to $4/pill when I get it filled, so that's $40 for 10 pills and that's just my cost! YIKES! So I went to the website of the drug and printed out coupons for $20 off my next refill. When Nicholas was taking Prevacid as a baby, we registered on their website for a card that gave us $20 off each prescription as well. Definitely worth the time!

7. Mail order options. Do you have this available through your prescription plan coverage? Ours used to be that we paid 1 copay and got 3 months of medication, but it was changed this last plan year that we pay 2 copays and get 3 months of medication. So it's a "free" month basically. If it's a medication that you take daily and fill constantly, the savings add up and the convenience of having it mailed right to your house can't be beat!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Dinner Rolls

Here's an amazing recipe I've been using for dinner rolls. We've made them a couple of times and they come out sooooo good!

Here ya go!

1 pkg. yeast
1 c. lukewarm water
1 egg
1/4 c. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/4 c. oil
3 c. flour, sifted

Dissolve yeast in lukewarm water. Add egg, sugar, salt and oil. Add half the flour, and beat until smooth. Add rest of flour and beat again until smooth. Fill greased muffin pans half full and let rise until double. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.

Definitely melt a little butter and brush on them before baking. Yum!

Ticker Update (May)

What the crap! Have I not done this since February? How is that possible?

Starting debt: $39216.30
Amount paid: $26,005.30

$13,211.00 until we are DEBT FREE

We're on a snowball hold since we drained our emergency fund. But, we're intensely trying to get it stocked up again and going!