Categories
Marriage

Pizza, used cars, and marriage: Here’s why all three require compromise.

I saw a post on Facebook the other day that I could, unfortunately, relate to more than a few times. I’ll share it below for your viewing pleasure:

pizza-used-car-marriage-compromise
There you go, running off with a “pizza” my heart… *ba dum tiss*

I’m sure I’m not the only one who has been in a situation like this before. Have you ever let someone have their way because it was easier to deal with at the moment? I know I have.

In fact, I was actually in this scenario a few days ago. Except replace the frozen pizza with a used vehicle, and now we’re talking some serious business.

Our poor 22-year old Jeep finally kicked the bucket last week. It clocked in well over 200,000 miles, and it happened to be my husband’s first and only car he’d ever owned. And he did not take great care of it. The fact that it was still in one piece after all of the crazy stories he’s told about it is a true testament to how well Jeeps in that generation were built. They are very hard to kill.

Anyway, we found ourselves at a car dealership, arguing over whether we should be getting another Jeep that was newer, a truck that was not so new but could be great for our work, and how the hell we were going to finance the whole damn thing. We brought his dad along for the ride, and for some sound mechanical knowledge and judgment as we looked at our choices.

Near the end of the day, I was fed up. We test drove two Jeeps that were well out of our price range as “viable” options. I felt like I kept my mind and my options open for Dan. But as soon as we got around to the truck I had thought was a great deal for what it was, Dan immediately started dismissing it.

“There are dings everywhere, it’s got a broken tail light, there are some weird noises coming from it… This thing is beat to crap.”

“Well, duh.” I thought. It was a USED truck. And I wasn’t trying to break the bank, either…

After a reluctant test drive, and a few words with the sales guy about fixing the tail light and the minor paint chips at no charge, Dan’s dad gave his ruling.

“It’s a good truck.” He said. “Runs just like mine. You probably won’t find another one like this for the price it’s at…”

Here’s where Dan got upset. He still wanted the Jeep, and he still had very little interest in the truck I had found. I’m not proud of how I reacted, but I snapped back at him:

“Well, since Dan doesn’t want the truck, we might as well not even look into it or try negotiating the price. If he doesn’t want it, then we’re not getting it.”

Now didn’t that sound familiar to the pizza story just before that? Of course, when you and your spouse are deciding on a pizza that costs 8 bucks versus a $25,000 work vehicle, the conflict in the more expensive situation is going to be much worse. Dan could have the first choice of all the Digiorno pizzas in the world for all I cared. But dropping this much money over things like the sound system, the screen display size on the dashboard, and petty cosmetic details on a work truck? That’s where I drew the line.

Now from Dan’s point of view, he was frustrated. I had apparently chosen the last car we bought (even though I previously understood we had both agreed on the choice made together) and he was growing resentful of having to drive his old beat-up Jeep around. Now was his chance to finally get a car that was more up to date and that he could make last for a long time. He didn’t care how much it cost us financially, he just wanted to finally have something nice for himself to drive, too.

It doesn’t help that we both have different ways of going about buying a car. I want to negotiate the prices. Dan is happy to trust the sticker price. We also both handle money differently in general. I tend to be the saver, while Dan is the spender in the relationship. I grew up with less of the green stuff in my pocket, so I’m definitely a bit pickier about where it ends up going.

At the end of the day, we were both exhausted. Now, I broke a cardinal rule here for our financial health’s sake: I told his parents about how much money we actually had for a down payment. Since we’re business partners, after all, they really needed to know the severity of the situation we were dealing with. We just couldn’t afford the options that Dan had presented to them. They were not happy. So naturally, his mom started lecturing him about money, and this didn’t help the tension between us at all.

We went to dinner after we had finished shopping around. I ended up feeling defeated, and Dan felt even more resentful towards me after his own parents ended up siding with me. I didn’t know what I could do to make the situation any better. Enter the awkward silence and uncomfortable glances.

Luckily, we were able to find something that could fit our needs and our budget the next day, and we were able to get over what had happened before. Sometimes, the solution to the problem doesn’t come that easily or quickly. If there was anything to take away from this whole thing, here are three key points: Know what you want. Readdress expectations if needed. And always keep an open mind.

I cannot stress how important communication is here. Any relationship has certain amounts of giving and taking to them, and it’s certainly a delicate balancing act at times. It becomes a problem when you let the little things like the pizza scenario build up until you have a car-buying situation, and then you both end up blowing up about every little thing in front of the in-laws. Having the ability to work through the little grievances before something bigger happens is crucial.

There’s also always the possibility that an agreement is never reached. And that is okay, too. Sometimes it may take a little time to figure out what is going to work best for both parties. And thankfully for us in this case, we found a compromise. That compromise was a Jeep…

Which is 15 years old and has fewer zeros in its price tag. See? Compromise.

Categories
Issues Money

I paid for groceries with plasma today.

We just got back from Lima after working a few jobs out of town. Despite the money that Dan and I had just made, we found later that night that we would still be short of what we needed for the month. (Stupid medical bills.) The next morning, I decided to gather my courage and plan a trip to my local plasma donation center. I needed to get some cash quickly.

I had driven by the place every now and then, and I always thought about trying to donate for some extra cash, but the reputations of these centers weren’t always squeaky clean. I decided to do my homework the night prior to my first visit there to make sure everything was legit.

csl-plasma-toledo
The donation center I visited in Toledo.

CSL Plasma had opened their 150th center in Toledo, and it just happened to be the closest one to me. After a quick Google search, I checked their website and gathered the information they needed before I arrived, which was my state-issued ID, my social security card, and proof of residency. (I brought a piece of mail with me that had my name with my current address.)

When I walked in, the center appeared to be pretty clean, almost sterile-like. It was actually pretty empty when I arrived that morning, and I had to get the attention of a technician to start the donation process.

The process for a first time donor was lengthy and exhaustive.

csl-plasma-technician
I can only imagine this thing that the techs wear is to prevent themselves from getting blood sprayed in their face.

First, I had to read a sort of packet that laid out the donation/compensation terms more specifically and warned of any risks or side-effects that could occur during and after the procedure. Then, I had to watch a video that covered almost the exact same thing in the packet I had received, and it went on for several minutes.

Afterward, I was directed to a booth where I privately answered 62 questions about my health history to ensure I was a good candidate for plasma donation. My thumbprint was scanned, and my photo was taken. I would use these two things as my ID verification later on for future visits. I was given a prepaid card in an envelope and a donor ID number, and this card would be loaded with cash after each successful donation.

They made sure to note that if a donation was not successful, I would not be compensated.

Once that part was complete, I entered another booth area where my blood was screened. My plasma was tested for levels of protein, lipids (fat), and some other stuff. They took my weight, temperature, and blood pressure. I passed the tests with flying colors. After this, I went to another private room for a physical. It was after this, I was able to sign the actual consent form that I was notified of in the packet I had received.

The whole screening process took about 30 minutes or so.

plasma-donation
I couldn’t take pictures inside of the actual facility, but this is what the machine looks like.

Now that I had signed the consent form and I had been cleared to go onto the donation floor, I was finally ready to donate plasma. I waited for a few minutes before a technician waved me over to a recliner-like chair. An apheresis machine sat on a table next to me, which would separate my blood from my plasma, and then return my red blood cells with some saline solution and some anticoagulant to my body. (Which prevents blood from clotting.)

I was asked if I had anything to eat or drink maybe twice before going to the donation floor, and I did eat about a cup of oatmeal with some cinnamon and sugar, some dried plums, and a piece of toast with butter. I had a glass of water with breakfast. They seemed a bit concerned but nonetheless had okayed me for the donation process.

Around me were others who were already having blood collected, trying to stay occupied as the machines whirred around them. Some looked nervous, others were unfazed and looked like regulars. There were young and old alike with me on the floor and one guy who came in even admitted that he had lost his job and had become homeless. These were all people like me who were hurting for cash, and hopeful for a decent payout.

csl-plasma-donation-floor
What a donation floor looks like. (Photo credit: mlive.com)

The technician was friendly and took the time to explain to me what everything was, what the machine would do, and what to watch for during the collection. The needle went in with no issue (a big deal for me since I have deep veins), and shortly after I started to see the blood go through the tubes and into the machine. I started to see the plasma separate and collect into a separate container, which I thought was pretty neat to watch.

Unfortunately, I started to become lightheaded and dizzy only after a few minutes. I guess I was losing blood too quickly… again. I had warned the tech that I would try not to pump my hand too much to get blood to the machine, or this sort of thing would likely happen. This had happened to me previously while donating blood in high school, and I had blacked out and woke up with everyone hovering over me and freaking out because of how fast it had happened. It was not pleasant.

I notified the staff and two techs immediately came to me with ice packs. One raised my legs high while the other checked on my machine and IV. They stayed with me until I started to feel a bit better. At least this time, I was prepared to avoid that from happening to me again.

plasma-donation-after
My arm after the visit. They really wanted to make sure this was tight enough.

Another tech came over to document everything that had happened. She informed me that I would be paid $50 for today’s visit. I guess I was fortunate to give just enough plasma to get paid – which was what looked like nearly a pint of plasma. Weaksauce.

The whole donation this time ended up taking about an hour and a half of my time, including the screening process. I was also informed that the screening process would be shorter after my second visit.

The staff at CSL Plasma said that I could donate twice a week and earn up to $400 a month if I chose to stick with that kind of donation schedule. However, the American Red Cross provides a guideline for plasma donations and only recommends to donate once every 28 days, or 13 times a year. This was quite a discrepancy, and it kind of disturbed me.

Still, I managed to walk away this time with $48 in cash (leaving $2 on the card for fees). This would allow me to get groceries for the next week while we wait for the next payday. I only felt a bit fatigued for an hour or so after the donation, but I’m happy to report that I’m feeling a bit better after some lunch and a short nap.

Has anyone else had experiences donating plasma for cash? I would appreciate any tips to make a future visit go smoother.

 

 

Categories
Children Life

How to handle the question – When are you having more kids?

I know this is often asked with the purest of intentions. Or maybe someone was just trying to make conversation to get to know me better. This is not written towards those people who don’t know better – this is aimed at people whom I may love dearly that continue to ask these kinds of questions without thinking. Even after I have said my piece and ended the discussion with “Someday, but not right now.”

This is also for people who don’t know me personally and then will read a sentence or two of text online before jumping to conclusions and then judge me with the intensity of a thousand suns. Y’all gotta chill.

I’m sorry to report this to those who don’t have kids yet – the question about whether you’re having kids or not doesn’t seem to stop until maybe you get 3 or 4 of them. Then after that, you get comments about how you should stop having kids because 7 is too many. Hey, if that’s your thing, you do you! Why are these people so interested in your kids, anyway? They’re not the ones who will be paying for them.

Sydney Kleinman from Scary Mommy came up with some fantastic responses to this question, and I can still relate to how uncomfortable that pressure to procreate can be.

Sure, you can fumble around and find something polite to say back if this kind of question throws you off guard. I usually do this most of the time. But once in a while, I will resort to a death glare if the question is brought up one too many times.

Here are some of my favorite responses to use for three scenarios I usually face:

“You got grandkids money?”

Remember when you tried to convince your parents to go through a McDonald’s or something because you were hungry and got tired of the food at home? Well, the response above is perfect karma.

I love my mom. I also love my in-laws. Almost immediately after our wedding ceremony was finished, we got bombarded with this question, especially from the hopeful grandparent candidates.

This was probably most often done at this point in jest, but it really started to annoy me. I realize that there are some not-so-great expectations that guys have to deal with from society in general, but the one where I’m supposed to be in misery for several months and then experiencing permanent changes to my body? That’s a big deal to me. Not to mention the amount of time, money, and resources that will be needed to support such a great venture.

So if you catch me with a cup of ramen noodles, do NOT even go there.

“I have to focus on me for a bit.”

Sure, this one may make me seem selfish, but I think if you take anyone though the physical and emotional pains of labor, make them sleep deprived for several months, and give selflessly to a completely dependent being, I think even the most rational person would tap out from exhaustion.

People seem to forget sometimes that moms are people, too. We have needs to be met as well. I do a whole lot of “nothing” around the house that somehow manages to keep PJ safe and happy for another day. Just because the laundry or dishes didn’t get done doesn’t mean I wasn’t hard at work.

I was one of those women climbing the corporate America ladder before I fell pregnant. Work outside the home is important for me too (because money!) but when I returned to my job at the time, I was overloaded with breadwinner duty and baby duty. There was too much on my plate, and I crashed after trying to maintain everything for about 4 months straight. What I was doing was not sustainable for my health.

My career path has definitely changed up a bit since having PJ, but I believe the change has been for the better, even if it’s a bit delayed. However, I think a sibling for PJ should wait until I can take a few more steps in the direction where I want our family to go.

“Nah, I’m good.”

I realize this isn’t very easy to say in some cases, but it is OKAY to tell someone that kids are not your thing. You really don’t need to explain yourself to anyone. Like for me, I just don’t want another one right now. PJ is enough.

Simple.

…No really, I just don’t want more right now. Maybe later.

Maybe. Now leave me be!

Categories
Money

The first year is the hardest. (On the wallet, too.)

This is nothing new. Babies are freaking expensive.

Just look at this recent estimate for 2015 – $13,000 a year on average for most of us in the US, which is about $233,000 from birth until age 17. This does not include college costs.

And can you believe that estimate is down from 2014? It was $245,000 back then. Ha.

Let me tell you, I am NOT the kind of person that enjoys owing any money on anything at all. I busted my butt to graduate college debt-free, drove a beat-up car that was all paid off, and kept all of my credit cards with statement balances of zero. I think I get so anxious about huge numbers in our finances because some of my formative years were during the Great Recession of 2008.

This was when the housing bubble burst and left a lot of people facing foreclosure, including my mom. I didn’t want to end up in another situation where I would have strangers harassing us because of something that was past-due that I could not pay. It was hard for everyone back then, even for the people who tried to collect on us, only to find out we had nothing of value to take.

(Seriously, they tried taking my car. Because of my mom’s debts. My car was only worth $400 at best. The repo guys were not happy about that one. Banks were desperate to collect on anything at all.)

1992_Buick_Century_Stationwagon
The trusty rust bucket I used during high school and nearly half of college. Best $800 I’ve ever spent.

Fast forward back to 2017. When the pregnancy tests came back positive, I was happy. But I was also crying. I was seriously freaking out. I thought I would have more time to plan for an occasion such as this down the road, especially financially. I had gotten to this point in my life faster than I had anticipated.

However, I was pleasantly surprised that we managed to survive the first year without taking on too much hardship – and not bleeding our bank account dry. We were lucky to have people in our network that got us access to hand-me-downs and free samples of nearly everything. Our church friends were also super supportive and helped us with whatever we needed in the first month.

Here are some takeaways from my latest financial journey so far…

Healthcare is Often Non-Negotiable – Stay Informed!

This was the largest expense in my experience.

We had health insurance. We paid $500 a month for our premium. I had a perfectly normal pregnancy. It was still around $4,000 out-of-pocket just for the delivery! This didn’t count what I had to pay out-of-pocket for prenatal check-ups until I had met my $4,000 deductible. So around $8,000 was just to keep tabs on the baby and make sure everything went well. We are so happy that she is healthy, but that cost alone was outrageous!

I tried being a responsible consumer and called around to find out how much services would cost for each hospital in the area. It was basically impossible to get a straightforward answer. Most of the time, I would get re-directed to a few different departments, only to be told that the costs were “variable” and that they couldn’t give me a proper estimate even. Yikes.

Thankfully, I can at least sort of haggle with the hospital for the monthly payments. I learned that the hospital I went to can never refuse a payment, no matter how small it is. If there are months where I can’t make the minimum payment, I try calling the hospital to tell them that I can only spare 5 bucks or whatever I’ve got left that month. My goal is to at least prevent the debt from going to collections. If it comes down to only having enough to pay for either groceries or this bill, you can take a good guess on where that money will be going.

hospital_bill
Only a little more than $3,300 left to pay. Yay.

The Benefits of Amazon Prime for Diapers

The second biggest expenses for us were diapers and wipes. Fortunately for me, I had accidentally paid for an Amazon Prime membership a few months before finding out I was pregnant. We took full advantage of all that the Prime membership had to offer. As Amazon Prime members, we had access to Amazon Family, which gave us 20% off diapers, and the Subscribe and Save program also allowed us to take an extra 15% off of other items as well! After that, the membership basically paid for itself with all of the savings on just the diapers and wipes alone.

Also, it was really just nice to have the items come to me. This also saved me from extra trips to the store because of diaper shortages. And with frazzled mom brain in full swing, it was awesome to set a subscription for the diapers I wanted, and then let Amazon do the rest. Another thing off of my plate!

Evolving Wardrobes – Choose Wisely!

The third largest expense? Just the clothes I had to buy for myself during and after the pregnancy. (Had to be presentable to the public, yes?) I worked in an office, so I had to wear professional-ish attire that fit me well. If my belly was sagging out of my pants or if my top was too tight, that was going to be a problem. The pregnancy and postpartum shapewear I got was phenomenal but expensive! I also had to get larger bras to accommodate the additions to my, err… assets. (And also very expensive.)

And it’s not just the mom who needs new threads – baby’s gotta be dressed, too! We were so blessed to have a couple in the church offer us anything they had for their first child. Our nursery was nearly free because of them! We also were blessed with an unlimited amount of clothing for her first year, which we didn’t spend a dime on.

I didn’t stress in the early months about baby clothes. A baby does not yet have any sort of fashion sense. There is no need to buy expensive clothing. Chances are, the baby will outgrow a LOT in the first few months and may not even get to wear some things. It’s absolutely amazing how fast these little ones grow!

Make Up an Email for Free Stuff!

Even if I did not benefit from some of these items, chances are I can find a mom who could use them! Take my word for it – there are marketers out there who want you to have these free items so you can come running back for more. They hope that if you try a product and end up loving it, you will run to the store to buy more of it. They hope that this can create customer loyalty and a relationship with the brand over time.

But who says we’re obligated to go buy something just because of a free sample?

I got loads of goodies, samples, and discounts from many companies and retailers. Some include Sam’s Club, Enfamil, Similac, Phillips (Avent bottles), Huggies, Pampers, Luvs… well, you get the idea. A LOT of places. And all I had to do was give them an email and fill out a painless form here and there.

I loved getting those little presents in the mail during my pregnancy.

I also earned some perks and discounts by setting up baby registries with different retailers. I had three different ones set up: Amazon, Target, and Babies “R” Us.

If you want to try this, just make up a specific email for the goods so your primary email doesn’t get spammed to death. Because it will. And if you do happen to go through those emails, you can sometimes find good deals on products that you will actually use!

Babies. Don’t. Know. Anything.

Finally, I use this knowledge to my advantage when thinking about toys and food. Or anything else, really. Babies have no idea what they are about to experience when they pick up an object or try solid foods for the first time. It is a wonderful thing to witness, even if they are just playing with a paper towel roll or eating last night’s liquified leftovers. They really don’t know better.

PJ loves boxes. Simple objects around the house (that are safe!!!) will do just fine to entertain her for now. And luckily, she will eat anything I put in front of her. This means I can save a lot of money on food by just feeding her what we are eating. There is a time trade-off for homemade food, but it was so much cheaper for us that it was worth the time spent in our situation.

Your turn! Do you have any helpful tips to save money during the first year? Share with me below! I’m always looking for new ways to stretch my dollar further.