Friday, August 24, 2012

The OTHER Question I Didn't Ask

This is one of the most awkward posts I have ever written in my life.

Remember when I talked recently about our infertility struggles? Turns out, there was one more question I should have asked when I scheduled that infertility intake. Such as, could I possibly already BE pregnant? I had been waiting for a sign to test for pregnancy, rather than getting discouraged by negative test after negative test - but I hadn't had any symptoms, just the same irregular cycles that the medication was supposed to fix. It seems like an obvious thing to do when scheduling an infertility checkup. But it wasn't until I had a really weird dream about a week before the appointment that I took a test.

Turns out, I was pregnant. Turns out, I have been pregnant for quite some time - about five months, give or take. When we went in for the infertility-turned-prenatal-appointment, we were all amazed at the little baby waving back at us from the ultrasound.

It appears we conceived days after I started taking the medication my doctor prescribed back at the end of MARCH. The side effects of the medication masked any mild symptoms I might have noticed in the early months, and my irregular "cycles" have continued so that wasn't a clue either*. Luckily, everything seems to be going normally and both baby and I are healthy, and Peanut and I have a to-do list that's about a mile long, because we have until Christmas to get ready to be parents.

The shock is starting to wear off now, and I want to sincerely thank everyone who shared their thoughts with me both publicly and privately after my infertility post. Polycystic ovarian syndrome is something that I will likely continue to struggle with and which may affect future attempts to conceive. I feel both guilty and elated that my difficulties didn't last even as long as I thought they did. Elated, because hello, baby! Guilty for all the things I did before I knew I was pregnant, like drinking and doing certain yoga poses and changing the litterbox and eating sushi and soft cheese and lunchmeat. Guilty for having such an easy pregnancy that I basically missed half of it. Guilty because there are bloggers and other friends who are still struggling.

The last two weeks have been the most surprising of my entire life, and I'm looking forward to things getting back to whatever normal will be from here on out. Thank you again to everyone who commented on my last post about this, and my heart goes out to everyone who has or will experience any kind of infertility struggle - I wish for you the news I received this month (only maybe, you know, a littler earlier in the process).


* I have been put through the ringer by pretty much everyone who's heard the story, but no: truly, I had no clue that I could be pregnant. I haven't thrown up in years, I haven't been fatigued, I don't weigh myself regularly, my clothes have only begun to fit differently in the last couple weeks, I have had what appeared to be normal menstrual cycles (for me). I'm just...flabbergasted and embarrassed that I missed it, but really, there was nothing to twig on to.


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Life Insurance

So apparently today is some sort of life insurance day! There are posts all across the blogosphere, including from Money Q&A, Budgeting in the Fun Stuff, Centsible Life, Budgets are Sexy and Add Vodka.

So I'll throw my 2¢ in as well, because why not?

I ignored all the advice about life insurance until we bought a house. I figured I didn't need it, because I didn't have any dependents or any major debts that would need to get paid off upon my death. I just signed up for whatever supplemental life insurance my company offered (this usually costs about $1 per paycheck) and figured that would be a nice little bonus to leave my family. Originally, my beneficiary was my sister, and then after I got married, I switched it to Peanut.

Peanut didn't have any life insurance, through work or otherwise, until we purchased a house. I started crunching numbers and realized that I didn't want to have to afford the mortgage by myself, so I requested that he get both life and disability insurance that would cover that and more besides, as a gift to me. Which he did. He is comfortable with the amount of supplemental life insurance and long term disability that my company offers, so we didn't purchase more insurance on me.

This is probably where we're going to stay for the indefinite future. If I were to quit my job or be in a position that didn't offer life or disability insurance, we would look into nominal policies for me. We will not purchase life insurance on any kids that we have. We prefer to try to self-insure as much as possible (emergency funds, living within our means, paying off debt, and leading a healthy lifestyle) and we're pretty secure with where we are.

I have to recommend Insurance for Dummies as a GREAT resource for insurance questions of all kinds. (No affiliation, no affiliate links - I just found that to be a really helpful book!)

Do you have life insurance? Do you think you need it?


Monday, August 13, 2012

Things I want to spend money on

Right now, I want to buy:

For the bedroom:
* Some leather-like storage thingies to put extra blankets in (something like this)

For the bathroom:
* Something like this or this to store towels in
* New exhaust fan (ours rattles, but works fine)

For The Room (living/dining/office - main room where we spend the most time)
* New dining chairs (really, I should just reupholster and fix the ones I have)
* Folding chairs for additional seating when we have people over
* More bookshelves (lots and lots more bookshelves)
* A bigger kitchen/dining table or one with a leaf for more board game room
* Colorful throw pillows for the couch
* Matching desks and desk chairs for me and Peanut
* A big comfy lounge chair for reading in

For me
* Work pants
* New unmentionables
* New shoes

For the guest room
* A headboard
* A feather bed thing to make the bed softer
* Dresser or nightstand

Misc.
* A hammock
* A clothesline
* Another hanging clothes dryer
* More art for the walls in almost every room
* Canning stuff
* Deep freeze

I don't need any of this stuff, and I sure can't afford ALL of it. But I'm keeping my eyes peeled at Goodwill and estate sales for cheap versions of the things I want.

What are you wanting to buy lately?

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Link

While I hate that ee musings has experienced being burgled, but her post on what to do if it happens to you (plus some things to do now to make it easier if it ever does happen) is fabulous.

There's a lot in this Get Rich Slowly post that I agree with. Spend less than you earn probably is the overarching theory for financial independence, but it's not enough. Dave Ramsey is fantastic for dealing with emergencies and almost-emergencies, but a fundamentalist approach doesn't work as well for most people once the emergency has passed. I think if I had to come up with a financial theory of everything it would be: Spend less than you earn, and remember you can't take it with you. What's your financial theory of everything?

I found this interesting Wall Street Journal article about The Stuff of Families via Small Notebook. I've been on a decluttering spree myself lately! Particularly interesting to me was that clutter and messiness correlates with high stress hormones in women, but not in men. This totally corresponds with my own experience - Peanut literally doesn't get bothered by things, whereas I cannot get them out of my head until they're done. Once the idea "declutter the white cabinet" popped into my head, it would not leave until it was done.

I identify with a lot of what Revanche says in this post about her shifting money attitude. We are also in wealth nurturing mode. It's not survival mode anymore. We're not desparately saving for that big thing we want - to move across the country or to buy a house - and we're not even saving like mad for something unknown. I'm working on building up a larger emergency fund and sinking funds for the expenses that we know will come, like taxes and car replacements and health insurance deductibles. None of that is an emergency, and while I still feel an urgency about it, I also feel more comfortable spending money on non-necessities, and that's okay.

As usual with posts from A Practical Wedding: OMG YES. You don't need all the things but sometimes the things help. Some things (for which we spend money) really make a big difference in our lives. The trick to responsible finances, in my opinion, is figuring out which ones really make a difference, and not feeling bad for spending money on those, while cutting out the ones that don't make that much of a difference. The Things that make a difference for me: High speed internet. Smart phone. Washing machine. Detached house. Books.

Important: Protect your digital stuff. Separate user log-ins, strong and unique (even generated!) passwords, two-step verification, and secure back-ups are basically beginners' level computing nowadays. How are you doing? (Full disclosure: I think I give myself a C right now. Some of my passwords need to be cleaned up, along with old accounts, and while we have cloned drives, we don't have an offsite backup. Going on the to-do list!)

Wow - it is hard to think about holiday gifts already, but yes - if you're thinking of homemade gifts, now's the time to start planning for it so you don't get swamped right after Thanksgiving! Are you planning to do some homemade stuff? I might this year, since I got a reminder early enough in the year to do something about it!

Best things to buy in August - awesome! We've been needing a dehumidifier and Peanut wants a grill, so it's probably time to go shopping....


Friday, August 10, 2012

The Question I Didn't Ask

I've struggled with how to write this post. It's more personal than most of the things that I write about here but Peanut told me the other night that someone else might benefit from what I've learned, so here goes.

We've been struggling to have a baby.

I'm 31, and we've been married two years. We turned our lives upside down last year to put ourselves in a position where we felt we could start a family - we moved across the country, we bought a sensible sedan, we bought a house. Everything fell into place - except that when we started trying to conceive, it didn't seem to be working. I began charting my temperatures in the fall using the Taking Charge of Your Fertility method, and it was evident right away that something was, indeed, wrong.

I was lucky to have my doctor take me seriously after failing to conceive for only 6 months - usually at my age, they make you wait a full year. But I showed her my charts and she did some tests and determined that I have polycystic ovarian syndrome - PCOS. I actually skipped that chapter in Taking Charge of Your Fertility, because I lack every other defining symptom: I'm not overweight, I don't have acne or excess hair growth, thinning hair, sleep apnea, insulin resistance. I simply...don't ovulate. Which, you know, is kind of important to that whole babymaking process.

The doctor recommended medication, which devastated me. I had a vision of a natural, medication-free birth outside of a hospital and I sort of felt like I wouldn't "deserve" that if I couldn't even get pregnant without intervention (not to mention that it may not even be available to me if I wind up having a high-risk pregnancy - which now seems more likely than ever). I hinted at this back in March when I was first diagnosed, but after doing a lot of thinking I agreed to try the medication.

According to my charts, it hasn't made much of a difference. When I started, my doctor told me to try it for four or five months and if I didn't notice an improvement (in cycle length, in temperature consistency, in achieved pregnancy) to make an appointment with her colleague at the in-office infertility clinic.

Which I did. When I called to make that appointment, she said fairly offhandedly "Does your insurance cover this?" I said I thought so - after all, they covered the first medication and all the tests I'd had up till now (I mean, theoretically - this is a high deductible insurance plan, so so far this year, they haven't covered anything - but everything I've paid out of pocket has been applied to the deductible which means it's "covered"). She advised me to double check, so two weeks ago I did.

And.

The health insurance that I so carefully researched last September/October, knowing that I would be attempting pregnancy this year, does not cover infertility treatment of any kind. The medication I'm currently on skated by because it is more commonly used to treat something else, but the second medication - the one that's more "sure fire" to produce pregnancy - would not be covered at all. Nor would any more intensive procedures, like IUI or IVF - procedures that frequently cost in the many thousands of dollars for each round.

It's a simple matter of a question I didn't ask, because I didn't think it would apply to me. And here are some other questions I didn't think to ask at the beginning of the process:
* How long are we willing to keep trying to get pregnant?
* What about medication that causes really bad side effects to me and/or increases our risk of multiples?
* Which invasive and/or higher-risk procedures are we willing to try - especially now that we will have to pay for them entirely out of pocket?
* Would we go into debt to have a baby?
* How much do we tell other people about what we're dealing with? How do we handle the subtle pressure that friends and family might be putting on us if we decide to keep it quiet?
* How do we handle the strain this is putting on our relationship, or the emotional effects it's having on me? (After all, I'm the one that's "broken".)
* How do we handle learning of pregnancies in our friends and family?
* What do we do about health insurance now? Should we switch again at the next open enrollment session? CAN we, or is this now a pre-existing condition that won't ever be covered by anyone?

The reason I write this post is that my answers to these questions might have been quite different last summer, before I'd invested a year of hoping, dreaming, and unpleasant side effects into the pursuit of starting a family. I should not have been so cavalier as to assume that infertility would never happen to me, especially as the rate of incidence of PCOS and other hormonal imbalances is drastically increasing among my generation*.

The question you don't think to ask can affect almost any situation in which your finances are involved. Having a baby is perhaps one of the most emotionally fraught situations, but think about things as simple as "What's your return policy?" or "How does this apply to me?" or "Is that the best you can do?". One thing I have learned from this is to now always, always ask the question that seems silly to ask - especially if I initially brush it off with "oh, that'll never happen to me."

Note: I will probably not write much more about our infertility experience, even as it relates to our finances. Even an anonymous blog is not totally private, and we have been keeping our situation very quiet in real life. If you have specific questions, please feel free to email me, but not to worry - this blog isn't going to turn into an infertility or a mommy blog at any point!



* I have my own theories as to why this is, namely, hormones in our food, plastics that leach BPA, and rampant hormonal birth control use. It would seem to follow that confusing our bodies' natural hormonal signals can't help but affect the way they function longterm. But that's a topic for a totally different blog! (And, probably, a team of research scientists.)

Monday, August 6, 2012

Weekly Money Checkup

 
Weekly Money Check-Up is a weekly series on My Pretty Pennies.
 
 1. The most I’ve spent this last week was probably on gas for the car, or maybe groceries. A pretty boring week!
  2. Today I am thankful for an amazing, relaxing weekend. That hasn't been happening enough lately!

3. Money can’t buy happiness. One free thing I did last week that made me happy was hang out with friends, grilling at their house and playing board games. We brought a box of chocolates from the pantry, which I'd purchased with a gift card, so it was a free contribution!

4. I will consider this week a success if I accomplish most of the following:
  • Yoga three times at home
  • Arrange for siding on house to be fixed
  • Catch up at work
  • Cross one more closet off my decluttering list
  • Survive my first burlesque class
  • Cook a new recipe
  • Read two books
  • Snuggle with the kitty!
5. I am trying to incorporate less added sugar in my diet. It's really hard! And it's hidden in all sorts of foods, besides the obvious cookies, soda, and sweets - it's in canned and bottled sauces, fat-free products, condiments, even chips and crackers. Really, the only solution is to make as much of your own food from scratch as possible, which of course takes time. I'm trying, though!


 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

July Spending Recap

Alcohol $26.44
Business expenses (deductable) $3.89
Business expenses (reimbursable) $976.87
Cat $146.36
Charity $10
Clothing $60.54
Electronics $65.01
Entertainment $193.80
Food—dining out $195.06
Food—groceries $364.37
Gardening $13.99
Household items $9.61
House $1,366.54
Hygiene/Medical $6.44
Jeep $76.91
Mazda $110.55
Sewing/Quilting $318.86
Student loans $403.83
Utilities $301.98
Yoga $40

Total Spending: $4,389.07
 
Things of note:

Some part of the sewing/quilting fee could be categorized as "gifts", I guess, since I spent some of that renting a long-arm machine specifically for the quilt I'll be giving as a gift. But I'm also gathering useful skills that I'll keep long after this quilt is given, so...

Our house payment went down! Well, not really - our taxes went down, which we actually got a small refund for last month. I'll take it!

Eating out spending was quite lower than last month, but groceries were higher, even though I'm doing the #couponchallenge! However, I was traveling for half of June and not buying groceries during that time, plus we hosted at least two gatherings at our house in July which means more food spending. If you compare our grocery total to typical months where we eat at home more, our spending is right on track - but I feel like I got a lot more for the money than usual, which is a good sign that the #couponchallenge is working!

How was your July spending? Any surprises? 

 

July Recap/August Goals

July Recap
1. Make a decision on the quilt thing and put it into action. Success! I am now certified to use long-arm quilting machines...and I've actually finished my first quilt! I am handstitching the binding this week, then it'll be a baby shower gift next month. This project was so fun - I'm already working on a few more!

2. Ramp up the #couponchallenge. So-so. I did sign up for a newspaper subscription, but it hasn't started showing up yet - and I forgot to pick up a paper with coupons one weekend. Oops. But I've been pretty good about using coupons on every shopping trip, and am saving on average 10-15% off the bill.

3. Don't go crazy on house spending. I did pretty good - I don't think I bought anything for the house! (Not for lack of trying.) I still want to use up an almost-expired Bed Bath & Beyond coupon to get more silverware, washcloths, and handtowels, and I've got my eye out for some specific furnishings from Goodwill or estate sales, but nothing crazy.

4. Do some garden research. I did a little research and found some books I want to check out of the library, but I did not put the focus into this that I intended to. Next month!

5. Pre-order a video game with no guilt. Success! Guild Wars 2 has been pre-ordered, I've already played some of the early bonus content, and I'm really excited about it.

August Goals
1. Do some garden research. I suspect we'll have to stop doing research and start doing in the fall to get ready for next spring, so no excuses!

2. Continue on with the #couponchallenge. I'm going to keep this going through Labor Day, so it's time to buckle down and get some good data to crunch at the end of the challenge.

3. Set an entertainment budget and then enjoy spending it! August marks the opening of both the Minnesota State Fair and the Minnesota Renaissance Festival, and I'm going to both at least once. I want to find discount tickets and set a budget for how much to spend on food at each. I don't buy souvenirs or anything, I just like to buy food - but I find that I enjoy myself more if I have to be a little picky instead of just getting whatever my little heart desires. Setting a budget is a good way to enforce that.

4. Start thinking about food differently. I recently read In Defense of Food and Food Rules by Michael Pollan, and I keep coming back to this understanding that what we eat affects almost everything about our lives. I'm very lucky that I've never needed to diet for weight loss, but as I get older, the foods I eat affect me in different ways, and I'm just starting to realize that it's time to cut out processed stuff, added sugars, and as many artificial colors, flavors, and additives as possible. It's really hard to do! But I like the way he terms these types of not-really-foodstuffs as edible foodlike substances. If I can keep that in my mind (along with the Prairie Eco Thrifter's comparison of what we spend on a Starbucks drink versus an heirloom tomato), I think it'll help.

5. Yoga. At home. Three times a week. (Plus one class per week.) Please help keep me honest!