Get a Predetermination for Dental Work

delta dentalI pride myself on being on top of our medical expenses. So, my pride was definitely hurt when some recent dental work cost twice what we were expecting. Jay needed a crown. The dentist sent us a “Treatment Case” which included an estimate of the cost. Delta Dental covers 50% and the damage was $476 us, $476 Delta.

Not until the work was done and the paperwork submitted did we discover that the crown was not, in fact, covered. Note 41 on the Explanation of Benefits stated “This service is allowed 1 time in a 5 year period…” It had been 4 years and 3 months since Jay had the original crown on tooth no. 14.

I may be on top of our medical expenses, but I do not keep track of individual teeth.

This is the first time (in my recollection) that our benefits have not covered something. From now on, when it comes to non-preventative work we will be asking our dentist to get a predetermination from the insurance company. This, apparently, takes 4-6 weeks. In this case, Jay was looking at a root canal if he didn’t get the crown attended to. So, we wouldn’t have waited until the 5 years had passed.

But, hopefully, in the future getting predeterminations will show us that we are covered or warn us when we are not going to be covered. That way we can at least make an informed decision vs. getting an unpleasant surprise. Dental work is already unpleasant enough as it is!

Tax Notes

taxesWe have an accountant do our taxes. I’m really organized and keep track of everything and present it to him as such. No boxes of receipts from us! I want him to spend the minimal amount of time on them, hence keeping his bill as low as possible.

Once the taxes are done, I go through them carefully. Accountants make mistakes, too. In fact, last year I realized that the some property taxes had been omitted from our 2012 return and we had to file an amendment. Our accountant acknowledged that I had, indeed, included them in the tax organizer and he had missed them. So, he didn’t charge us to file the amendment.

Our accountant has just sold his practice to someone else. We will see how it goes this year. But I am pretty determined that I will start doing our taxes again – once the kids are done with college and we’re done flipping properties. I did our taxes for years and, without these complications, it was well within my comfort zone. In preparation, I recently spent a few hours creating spreadsheets to calculate depreciation on our rental properties. Between the tax documents from our accountant and researching accounting practices on the internet, I was able to figure it out.

This past month, I’ve filed returns for our sons. And I’m putting together everything our accountant will need for our taxes. As I do this I go over my tax notes from last year and have been adding new ones. For example:

– make sure to record the insulation expenses for residential energy credit
– find out how many books one of my publishers donated to a charity headed by a politician I would never vote for (I felt compelled to agree to forego the royalties)
– kept track of how I filed for the kids (website, login ids, passwords, hints)
– reviewed exemptions and deductions we qualified for (or not) in 2013, to anticipate how things might look in 2014

Digital Calendar

online calendarMy transition to a digital calendar is complete. It’s easy to maintain and update by simply copying and pasting entries from one week/month to the next. And it’s going to be a useful memory jogger. For example on Presidents’ Day I noted two things I often wonder about – it’s a holiday for Jay and the trash does get picked up. Next year, I will transfer these reminders and, hopefully, we’ll remember to put the trash out on Monday rather than Tuesday. 😉

I also like the following:

– I won’t be buying calendars any more
– I won’t have to keep old ones in a drawer
– I won’t have to wait until stores deem it necessary to finally stock next year’s calendars to get one. In the past, they are never in stores as early as I’d like.
– it doesn’t take up any space on my already messy desk, just my “desktop”

Return Envelopes

return envelopeI’ve found a good use for those return envelopes that come with bills. (And, yes, I still get paper bills unless the issuing company charges me for them. I keep them on file for tax purposes, for comparison purposes and, no, I don’t want to use my own paper and ink to print them off.)

Since I pay virtually all our bills via online bill pay or auto pay I used to throw the return envelopes away. But I’ve started to use them for my grocery lists, tucking the coupons I plan to use inside the envelope.

Very handy!

Track Your Medical Expenses

doctorEvery year I keep track of all our medical expenses – copays for prescriptionsdoctor visits, and emergency room visits (remarkable how many of these our kids rack up), vision expenses, dental expenses. I’ve even started keeping track of what our various prescriptions would cost if we had to pay out of pocket.

As a result, I know that, in addition to the monthly deductions Jay’s employer takes out of his paycheck, we spent $3,529 in 2012, $1,402 in 2013, and $3,136 in 2014. I can quickly determine how much we spent on each person, and for what. Should we have to make choices on new health care options, or by the time we’re choosing supplemental health care coverage once Jay retires, etc. I will have years of data to help us analyze our choices.

Write It Down

IMG_1231I’ve posted before about “writing it down” whether it’s a reminder for your To Do list or plans for bigger, less administrative, things you’d like to do. Sometimes I feel a little embarrassed about my obsessive lists and spreadsheets.

But I really think it works.

Maybe it’s my compulsive nature, but I get such satisfaction from checking something off a list. And in order to check it off, you first have to “do” it. 😉

So, while I’ve been toying with the idea of going snowshoeing, the fact that I had actually put it on my list of things to do in 2015 helped me to say “yes” when a coworker suggested I sign up for the last spot on this week’s trip through the rec center I work at. Now I have to make a list of everything I need for the trip!

Also on my list for 2015:

– get back on track with appointments (doctors, dentist, hair)
– the Cartier exhibit (done)
– the Matisse exhibit (done)
– Denver friends’ trip to Florida
– Calgary friends’ trip
– two trips to Calgary (one done)
– trip with Jay (maybe Florida, probably not Europe)
– go to a concert
– go to a play
– sell another children’s book manuscript
– learn to play pickleball

I Am Updating Our Wills

will testamentIt’s been awhile since we had our wills drafted. We have a “subscription” to a company named Legal Shield. For about $26/mo and have access to a local law firm, as well as identity theft protection. We’ve used the legal benefits before, but Jay’s company now offers something similar and we’re thinking of dropping Legal Shield. Not sure if we’ll keep the identity theft protection. I have alerts set on all my credit cards and I check our bank activity regularly. When we were the target of credit card fraud a few years ago, it was me who immediately discovered it, not the identity theft company.

Anyway, one of the benefits is having them draft a boilerplate will, free for the main member, and $20 for a spouse. We had this done years ago, but we are redoing it. The kids are no longer minors. The guardians we appointed back then are no longer married. And I’m changing executors.

Having a will is a good thing. It does not, however, mean that your estate will avoid probate – something many people erroneously believe. Probate is avoided by having beneficiaries designated on all of your assets. We have this done for our mutual funds and 401Ks, etc. But we haven’t recorded Beneficiary Deeds for all our properties – something that is on my To Do list.

Checking Expiration Dates

expiration dateHaving just returned from a visit home I am, once again, reminded to check the expiration dates on the food in our pantry. This, after finding that the mushroom soup I planned to use in a recipe I was making while up there expired in 2011.

I’m not saying that food has to be thrown out the second it’s past the expiration date – like at least one of my kids seems to feel. 😉 However, I do not want any of them to stumble upon cans that expired four years ago, let alone four decades ago – something my friend discovered last summer when clearing out her father’s house.

I don’t like waste. And we waste very little. But I did find, and throw out, a can of beets and a container of beef stock. Other than that, everything is well within its expiration date, and are all items that I will unquestionably use in the coming months. My pantry does not overfloweth, something I may regret it in the event of a nuclear war…

New Year, New Spreadsheets, New Lists

net worth spreadsheetI’m such a nerd. I have spreadsheets/lists for everything. And every new year I create new ones for all the things I measure:
yearly medical expenses
credit card activity
net worth
yearly goals
entertaining details
recreation reimbursement program

As I’ve posted before, you manage what you measure. Without my lists and spreadsheets, I’d be much less on top of our finances. I wouldn’t be nearly as informed about what a change to a High Deductible Health Plan will mean for us (something Jay’s company is hinting at). I wouldn’t be on top of which credit cards are the most valuable to me. I’d forget who we had over for dinner or a party and when and what I prepared. And I’d definitely forget a lot of the good ideas for things to do that I come up with or hear about.

I like order. Many things are out of my control, but being able to exercise a decent level of control over certain things empowers me. It saves us money. And it routinely makes my life easier. I consider it one of my hobbies and that way it doesn’t seem nearly as nerdy. 😉

Yet Another Mistake on My Comcast Bill

comcastI called Comcast last month to make some changes. Our promotional rate had expired and I wanted to add HBO back because Game of Thrones was starting back up.

Of course, I made sure to carefully go through the bill that came in the mail this week to make sure everything was correct.

And, of course, it wasn’t correct.

All the changes I expected (and I wrote them down during last month’s conversation) were there. But, in addition, I was now being charged $8 for a “Modem Lease Fee” in addition to the $8 “Modem Equipment Fee” I’m charged every month.

How easy it would be overlook this! But I check my Comcast bill line by line every month ESPECIALLY after I’ve spoken to someone in Customer Service and they’ve made any changes to our account. More often than not, they mess it up.

I’m making a note that next month’s bill should show an $8 credit to reverse the mistake for this month’s bill. Plus, I’ll have to make sure that the “Modem Lease Fee” line item has disappeared. If not, I’ll have to call them again.