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Friday, March 29, 2019

Frugal Living ~ Annual Memberships

As we continue to drill down into our expenses I've come across two unnecessary expenses:

1. Microsoft Office $99.99
2. Costco Executive Membership $60

We haven't used our Microsoft Office and don't really see the need for it so it seemed like a good candidate for cancel but it was bought through Best Buy so the annual renewal was going through their Geeksquad group and the email was going to one we didn't use anymore so it took some effort to get this canceled.  They tried to say we were over 30 days but I pressed hard to have the entire amount reimbursed as we had not used it and I called as soon as we got the credit card bill. 

I think the most frustrating thing is that we can no longer buy and own software, it's now on an annual membership fee so that makes it an ongoing expensive investment.  Whereas before we'd have paid potentially $400 and held it for 10 years, we would now have to pay $1000 for 10 years of usage.  Unless we are using it professionally I can't see continuing this kind of investment.

At Costco, someone at the register convinced me that I had to have Executive membership so we signed up for it 3 years ago, big mistake, I called to cancel and the guy frankly told me the first year we only made back $4, the next year a little more, and now this year $47.96.  The whole idea is that you make 2% back and if you use all the associated services it will pay itself back the entire $60 but we were not utilizing the services so we overpaid.  They were nice enough to credit the difference for the past year but I regret the prior 2 years of not paying attention to this renewal.

The take away is - pay attention to those renewal membership fees and evaluate each year if they are still necessary.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Last stop - Orlando!

I'm sure by now it's no secret that I develop toys for theme parks and part of that work involves visiting locations to scout out what the competition is up to.  In order to make this work for the kids and dog, I made sure we got a family resort that was dog friendly.  Holiday Inn Resort is 5 minutes from Disney Springs and has double bunk beds!  We were able to have one evening of fun at the hotel, and then on Saturday everyone (except the dog) was off to Disney Springs.  The family stayed busy at the Lego Store while I worked my way through World of Disney.  Everyone was happy with their custom Lego figs and no one complained when I ducked out to work. 

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Moving onto Fort Lauderdale

Mixing business with vacation, what a concept!  The gulf side was our vacation side, moving onto Fort Lauderdale to touch base with my work office and pick up a package for an upcoming meeting.  My oldest remembered the office from our time of living in Florida but the others did not.  They were wowed by all the toys and the COO gave them all Banbao toys to take home. 

Once I finished with work commitments, we moved onto our next Airbnb which had a life size chess set in the backyard!  The kids played while I finished work projects. 

For dinner we went out to our favorite local Mexican restaurant, Tijuana Flats, followed by a visit to Pompano Beach during sunset. 

It was Pi day so we grabbed some key lime pie from Bone Fish on the way back to the Airbnb and then I continued to work after the kids went to bed.  Well, at least they enjoyed their day, and I got pie so I'm not complaining about working on a vacation.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Blind Pass Park, Manasota, FL

For our last day on the gulf side, we picked Manasota for it's renown shark teeth, it was also pretty good shelling.  Once again super big high five for free parking, awesome bathroom area and short walk to the beach!  What a nice location for family beach day. 

We found several shark teeth and more in the local gift shop.  Really fun beach for kids because shark teeth are awesome.

As a side note, we started the day with car trouble and Mike left before the kids got up to drop our vehicle at a nearby mechanic.  We spent the morning getting caught up on laundry, dishes, and cleaning.  It gave us a break from all the outdoor action and when we left after lunch, the dog was only home alone for half a day.  

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Brohard Dog Beach, Venice FL

High five to the city of Venice, FL.  It was free parking and entrance.  The layout of picnic tables before going into the park was outstanding, an entire parking lot with one long row of picnic tables next to a pretty wild life preserve lake.  So nice and convenient.  Very clean restroom area before going into the beach area and double gates before going through to keep dogs from bolting into areas that are not safe for them. Did I mention free!?!

Monday, March 11, 2019

Punta Gorda, FL

Spring Break Day 4

We picked a place in Punta Gorda, FL because it was an entire house that allowed pets for less than $100 per night.  It's located in the same general area as Venice Beach and Fort Myers but when you get there you realize it's about 30-40 minutes from each.

Punta Gorda seems to be a tiny tourist town better suited for retired folks who want to dine out and not for kids and dogs.  The first day we got in around 4pm and went straight to the closest park with beach view at Ponce De Leon, which does not allow dogs.  It was a little disappointing as we couldn't walk on the beach with the exception of a tiny space, puzzled as to why they would build a concrete barrier there, maybe has to do with flooding or something.  They had a bird sanctuary in the park but hours are short, a few statues, a place to launch boats, and fishing from a pier.  One small play area with a few swings and one slide.  The only plus side was we didn't have to pay for parking or entrance.

We spent our time digging for shells along the mangrove mini beach area.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Family ~ Day 2-3 Spring Break 2019

Day 2 was spent on the road, we left around 10am, I guess we needed time to pack in the morning, would have preferred to leave sooner.  We got to Florence, SC.

Day 3, made it to Georgia where it was very nice!  So bright the kids needed sunglasses, poor Sam.

We reached my college friends house in the late afternoon, she had snacks ready, 6 daughters to play with, and plenty of art supplies.  Our kids went wild with the sprinklers and made new friends.  Can you imagine, sprinklers one day after leaving Maryland with snow!  

Friday, March 08, 2019

Family ~ Spring Break 2019

The first day of Spring Break took us to the library to get books for our upcoming trip.  It snowed so we're getting pretty anxious to hit the road for Florida!  

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

Frugal Living ~ Direct Primary Care

We gave up on traditional health care insurance in 2016 by switching to Samaritan Ministries for myself and husband.  It was an easy decision for us because we paid $450 per month plus we saved $200 per month to cover routine doctor visits and at the end of the year we usually had $1,000 left over to put into savings. 

This year we had to add the kids on the Samaritan program when they lost MCHP.  I made a spreadsheet of four kids routine doctor/dental/eye doctor visits and it came out about equal to a bronze insurance plan offered through Maryland Health Connection but the deductible was so high that we'd end up paying more.

Samaritan Ministries wrote about Direct Primary Care in their January monthly newsletter.  DPC is a network of doctors who have decided to offer a flat monthly fee for routine and sick doctor visits.  There is no third party billing so the cost is lower than having traditional insurance.  We found a provider in our area, Franklin Family Medicine, and have spent the past two months getting integrated into their system.

We pay $70 per month for adults and $10 per month for each child.  They require at least one adult in the system to help defer the costs of offering such a low price for children.  I updated my spreadsheet and remarkably we are only paying $500 more than our total medical in 2018. 

Our constant goal with Frugal Living is to find a balance between living frugally and a quality of life that doesn't sacrifice family needs.  I feel so much better having found Franklin Family Medicine because now we don't need to ask ourselves, is this illness serious enough to pay urgent care or doctor visit of $200?  Our DPR has told us to call or text any time of the day or night if we have any serious issue, seriously, who does that anymore? 

In summary, we have Samaritan Ministries who will cover any illness or injury that exceeds $300.  We have the DPC for all routine and sick needs.  We pay out of pocket for dental and vision. Our estimated annual total is $10,498.00. 

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Duck Yoga at the Hagerstown City Park

I just love how ducks can stand so easily on one leg, every time I try it, I wobble and I'm fairly slim so they must have amazing balance.  I walked around this guy and he didn't budge.