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Saturday, December 31, 2016

Frugal Living - December Part 2

Here is an update on our past month adventures in side hustles and savings!

Health Insurance:  

This is my 3rd year of working as an independent contractor and paying my own health insurance.  I could write a much longer post on my thoughts on the Affordable Care Act and how it has impacted us in both positive and negative ways and I will write this post, but for now I simply want to say we got a bill from Evergreen Health that was set to increase our premium by $300!  I had no intentions of pay this steep increase and immediately started looking for alternatives.  A friend at church suggested Samaritan Ministries.  For $440 per month, my husband and I could pay into a system where Christians pay each other's medical expenses. It's not insurance, but it's legally accepted on tax returns to act in place of insurance.  

$440 is about $200 lower than our 2016 monthly premium and the additional savings can be put aside for medical needs not covered by Samaritan Ministries such as regular office check ups and some prescriptions.  I did the math and in theory we should have more money in our pockets by end of year.  

To be honest, it's a huge leap of faith and it feels weird to not be covered by traditional insurance!  I don't know if it's a safety blanket or what but it was a tough decision to make.  I did a ton of research and couldn't find a compelling reason to NOT give this a try so we are on board.

I kept the kids on the Maryland plan because for $66 per month, it covers all their doctor visits, vision, dental, etc.  I'm so happy with this plan.  If and when it goes away in the upcoming years, I'll have to more carefully budget for their needs but for now, we will enjoy this plan for as long as it lasts.  

Consignment Sale:

Despite my disappointment in the last sale, I found another one that was doing a Christmas sale at the beginning of December.  I thought it might be nice to gain some extra money for the holiday's so I put in my due diligence and updated all my winter items that didn't sell at the last sale to the pricing tags for the new one.  I have to say this one was even more of a disappointment.

I sold 84 items and made $136.74.  The process to find all remaining items that didn't sell took me over 3 hours!  The shoes were such a mess that I found one boot of a pair, the clothing was a bit disorganized so it was very hard to find my items and I must have checked the toy section half a dozen times and couldn't find certain items.  When I was leaving, I made copies of my paperwork and highlighted all my missing items.  They promised to call me back once they found my items but I never heard back from them.  They were also late in sending the check or didn't send it at all.  I finally managed to get it on the 30th right before leaving for Asia.  

The space was an entire ballroom and it was just massive.  Maybe I had tried to hit too many categories?  I don't know but it was an exhausting experience.  I much prefer the other sale that I had done twice in the year.  It's a much smaller room and I've never had such trouble finding my things or getting a check in the end.

The Penny Hoarder and Money Saving Mom:

Both websites have given me some very interesting things to do with my spare time but they can be extreme time sucks.  I think they are wonderful websites with lots of great advise but some of these apps and websites are time consuming with very little return.  I have to be more careful in the future to not go overboard in things that are not adding enough value.

Here are a few examples:

  • Swag Bucks - I know some people swear by this site but for me it's a big time suck.  The inbox suggestions lead to online gambling, medical things, watch movie trailers for a few points, etc.  You can also buy things through SB like Ebates and it will add reward points.  I've tried cross comparing between the two and I think it's like airline miles.  You need to find one and stick with it to get the biggest balance of points on one account.  I think I'm going to stick with Ebates because it's easy and I don't have time to click on a hundred websites to earn points.  I just want to get a small discount when I do online shopping and Ebates meets this need.  
    • The Swag Bucks app has survey's but I've found that 100% of the survey's I've tried to do say they will give you big points but as soon as I try to take them I get a notice saying they've exceeded the number of people who can do the survey or I don't qualify.  Well update your system to not show the survey if you've got enough applicants!  That's just irritating so I've stopped even trying to do these survey's.
  • Free stuff comes with a price of extra emails in your inbox and quite a few tricks to achieve the free result.  Case in point - I got a free Play Doh set from Toys R Us through Money Saving Mom but I had to pay full price and was supposed to get reimbursed.  I don't think the reimbursement came through.  I don't know who to chase for that and I don't have time.  So stuff like that is too time consuming to get something for free.  I will budget for what I need.  I'm not going out of my way to get a free item.  Time is more important to me than free stuff.
  • MySurvey - last month I contemplated ending my relationship with this company and after a month of ignoring them the emails piled up to over 60!  I tried doing a few more survey's and I'd only get a few points per survey.  After two months I'd not even accumulated enough for one gift card!  I'm out! 
  • Shop Tracker - my phone hated this app.  I had to turn on an exception to get it to work and it caused other problems.  Then I realized that Pinecone Research (which I love) already uses the same bot to track my spending on Amazon so I couldn't use both.  I deleted Shop Tracker.   
In summary, there are some great ways to save and earn money but the trade off is time!  Is my time more valuable in spending it with family?  Cleaning my basement of clutter?  Studying our eating habits and finding healthier ways to live on our food budget?  There are so many distractions in this world.  To me the biggest budget impacts have been big decisions like switching our health insurance to Samaritan Ministries, that $200 savings will have a far greater impact with less monthly time investment in earning that!  So I'm at a point where if I find a great app or website like Pinecone Research, I'll work it into my routine but the other stuff has to go.  My time is more valuable spent elsewhere.  

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