Money Saving Tip: Double Check Dental Bills

You hear stories all the time of people being ripped off by hospitals by being charged for services they didn’t receive, but did you know the same thing happens at the dentist?

Today, I saved $100 on my daughter’s dental work with basic math skills and knowledge of my insurance coverages. $100!

Here’s what happened. When they told me that my daughter needed a cavity filled, I asked for a quote in writing. They provided one and even included my deductible in the price. I went back to have the work done and the new price was $50 more than what was originally quoted!

I questioned it. They got mad that I questioned it and tried to silence me and tell me that I was wrong and that my insurance downgraded back fillings, but I knew I was right so I stood my ground. If I were a new patient or hadn’t spent so much time on the phone with the insurance company, I might have believed them. I didn’t though, so I put up the stink and argued it. They called the insurance company and I was right!

Once that was straightened out, they re-did their calculations — and I double checked them! No shame in my game! And guess what — they were wrong again! They were still calculating my portion at the wrong co-insurance.

So, it pays to be an informed consumer. I just saved myself $100 and I cringe thinking about how many people just assume the office is always right. In my experience, they’re rarely right, so check those bills people!!


Home Depot: An Unlikely Source for Small Appliances

I took a trip to my local Home Depot this past weekend to get some funky little halogen lightbulbs for my kitchen light. They don’t sell them at Walmart, so I figured Home Depot was probably my best bet. What should have been a trip totaling under $15 quickly skyrocketed to over $100. Why? Small appliances.

Home Depot, you never fail to amaze me with your selection of random items at sometimes spectacular prices.

This week they had a display of small appliances in the lighting aisle / main aisle. They had Ninja blenders for $49, air fryers for $49, electric pressure cookers for $39, 3-pot crock pot buffets for $30 and more. It was like Black Friday pricing, but probably a little better.

I made my selections, then came home and took to the internet to see what else other stores may have. It’s July, so it’s perfectly acceptable to start looking for Christmas gifts, right? The electric pressure cookers are priced at $49.88 on Home Depot’s website, which is still pretty good since they go for $85 on Amazon. The better deals are definitely in-store, but if you don’t have time or don’t live near a Home Depot, the online prices aren’t too shabby either.

Prime Day Bust

Today is Prime Day. Amazon is boasting that they have more deals than Black Friday, with new deals being released throughout the day. Excited for the bargains, I went to their website and took a look.

What a load of junk. No, literally. Dog leashes, kindles, various supplements, yoga mats and towels. Not really any of the big-ticket items people go for on Black Friday.

If you read my Groupon review, you know that I sent back my Ninja 4-in-1. I saw that there was one on the Prime Day deals, so I took a look. Any color for $84.99 refurbished. That’s worse than Groupon where they’re currently $69.99! That’s not a deal! The same thing is true for the Instapot they have one sale. The Prime Day price is not a bargain at all compared to other sites.

So, my final ruling: Prime Day is a bust, at least, for me it is.

Did you manage to find any bargains?

My First Groupon Goods Purchase & Return: A Review of Groupon Goods

I’ve been stalking the Ninja 4-in-1 deal on Groupon and when my birthday rolled around in June, I decided to go for it. The unit arrived 9 days after I ordered it, which is a lengthy time for shipping, but ok. I opened the box and pulled it out.

My heart sank.

The cooker was severely damaged. Like much more than you would expect from a refurbished item. Most refurbished items are like new with little signs of wear. This had a huge dent on the side and the bottom didn’t fit back together properly. It looked like it fell off the back of the truck. The box was in perfect shape with a ton of extra packaging, so I know it was shipped that way. I was duped.

ninja damage

I contacted Groupon. They have a 14-day return period and this item was not excluded, so I hurried up and had them send me a return shipping label. I packaged it back into the box it came in and I sent it out the next day with the mail. The return carrier picked it up from the post office at 5am on Friday, June 30th. It’s now Saturday morning and their website still says it has not yet been received. It was. More than 24 hours ago.

I Googled the return carrier. They are known for their poor service and lengthy return times. Hooray. Way to choose a bargain-priced carrier, Groupon. One more nail in that company’s coffin as far as I’m concerned.

To add insult to injury, I left a review of the Ninja at Groupon letting others know that the unit was so damaged that I had to return it. Sort of a buyer beware warning if you will. They have rejected 4 versions of my review with no explanation as to why. I asked a chat representative if Groupon doesn’t accept 1-star reviews and she ended the chat without answering. I asked another representative the same question and they ignored it, then referred me to email support.

That leads me to believe they don’t accept 1-star reviews. My faith in Groupon was totally shattered by this transaction. I just want my money back so I can go buy a cooker from a more trustworthy site like Craigslist. Yeah, I just wrote that — I trust the weirdos on Craigslist more than Groupon.

Buyer beware.

My Take on the Michelle Carter Texting Suicide Case

By now I’m sure you’ve heard about Michelle Carter – the girl that encouraged her boyfriend via text message to commit suicide. He did wind up killing himself and now she’s on trial.

Am I the only one that thinks we’ve all lost our damn minds? Yes, she’s a sick, twisted piece of shit for encouraging a mentally ill person to kill himself. I’ve heard that she has something wrong too and was medicated at the time. Somehow the media is making his mental illness out to be more legitimate and  important than hers. We’re supposed to feel sympathy for him and his mental illness, but not for her. We’re supposed to hold her responsible for his actions, not him. He’s sick, after all. Oh wait… so is she.

Can I just say for a minute that I’m SICK AND TIRED of people using mental illness as an excuse? If you’re so screwed up that you can’t be responsible for your own actions (like killing yourself, killing a partner or shooting up a school full of little kids), you should not be allowed into society. Maybe we’re coddling these killers who also happen to have a mental illness a little too much. I keep seeing these horrible crimes committed and it’s always with the excuse of mental illness. I’m sick of it!

I’m not saying mental illness isn’t real, obviously it is and it’s an issue. I’m just saying that we need to stop giving people a convenient excuse to kill others. In a few cases, I’m sure the killer really didn’t know what they were doing, but in a lot of cases it seems like the defense just jumps to the mental illness excuse as a way of absolving their client of any responsibility. We need to hold people accountable whether or not they have a chemical imbalance in their brain. We keep looking for ways to pass the blame. A mentally ill person kills a bunch of kids in a school, we blame the illness. We blame the mother for not keeping better track of him. We blame the doctor. We blame everyone BUT the person that pulled the trigger. We’ve turned people with mental illness into victims and I’m sorry, but that’s wrong. We’re seeing more and more of these horrible crimes because we’re addressing the issue incorrectly.

The Michelle Carter case is just one more problem. Someone with a mental illness kills himself and we blame the girlfriend for encouraging him to do it. For being a bully. She didn’t pull the trigger. She wasn’t even in the same room as him. It’s words. He could have turned his cell phone off. He could have said no. He could have shown someone the messages and gotten reassurance from them if that’s what he really needed, but he didn’t. And in the end HE took his own life.

Yet Michelle sits in a court room on trial for her words. If we can convict this girl for text messages, can you imagine the slippery slope we’ll be on? What about controversial books, political posts or random tweets sent in anger? I know a lot of people say the difference is that the recipient in this case had a mental illness. Do you have any idea how many people you pass on a daily basis that have a mental illness? It’s rampant and a lot of those people are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. They’re completely unbalanced as this young man was and any small slight — whether it’s intentional or not — could be the straw that breaks the camels back and makes them do something horrible. You never know. By convicting her for her words, we’re setting ourselves up on a path where we’re all criminals. Where censorship is real and where you can be jailed for your thoughts, words or actions because they could offend the wrong person.

Is Michelle Carter a horrible, evil, vile person for encouraging her boyfriend to kill himself? You bet. But at the end of the day HE killed himself, not her. I think I’d rather let God sort Michelle one out than set the precedent that the wrong words at the wrong time are now a criminal offense.

Darling VoxBox: First Impressions

Recently I received a Darling VoxBox from Influenster. The box is packed full of FREE products and samples to try out in my home. The catch? Well, there really isn’t one. With Influenster, you receive FREE products and samples to try at home, then you just spread the word and let people know what you think. It’s that easy.

So, back to the box. What did I get? A full-size bottle of Nature’s Bounty Energy Gummies, a sample packet of Duncan Hines Perfect for 1 Chocolate Lovers Cake, Live Clean Baby Gentle Moisture Tearless Shampoo & Wash, Live Clean Moisture Baby Lotion, a coupon for a container of Country Crock butter and EVA NYC Surf’s UP! Texture Spray. Not a bad haul.

At first I couldn’t really see the connection between the items. VoxBoxes usually have some sort of theme. Then I realized this is really all “mom” stuff. Butter is a household staple, every mom needs some cake once in a while, baby products are self-explanatory as are the energy gummies and the texture spray is to combat the dreaded mom hair.

Aside from the butter, none of these products are things I would have necessarily tried on my own. I tend to stick with baby products that I know and love (or have been recommended by friends) and I don’t generally linger in the baking aisle at the store with my kids to see what’s new (moms know this is dangerous). As for my hair? Well, that hasn’t been styled in about 7 years, so I definitely wouldn’t have picked up the texture spray at random.

I’ve already dug into the butter and the energy gummies (which I may or may not have chased with an iced coffee), but I’m pretty excited to see how the other products work out. I’m saving the chocolate cake for Monday to enjoy with the Bachelorette, but the texture spray is going to go for a test drive this weekend as will the baby products. My “baby” is 3, so lets just hope they don’t make my ovaries explode. Wish me luck!

Not Sure What to Do

I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for over 7 years. For 6 of those years I’ve been working as a freelance copywriter to earn a little extra money. However, I’m not earning enough money to keep up with rising costs — you see, my husband hasn’t gotten a raise in over 6 years. He’s also unwilling to change jobs because he hates being the new guy, so the burden of making more money is on me. I can’t just “write more” because there’s only so many hours in the day and freelancing doesn’t pay very well.

So, I need to get a real job. I need to put my youngest baby in daycare and go back to work. I make more than minimum wage with my writing, so working at Walmart isn’t going to cut it.

Before kids I worked in a laboratory and I have a science degree. I’ve thought about going back, but those jobs don’t pay very well around here. I’d be making less money after accounting for daycare. I need something that pays at least $50k. Oddly enough, in-house copywriting positions seem to pay what I need. I think. I’m not completely clear on how much before and after school care for the older kids and full-time daycare for the younger kid will cost. I know it’s a lot, but I’m not sure quite how much.

I’m overwhelmed at the idea of going back because on top of working full time again, getting the kids to and from their various programs will be 100 percent on me. Even if I get a good paying job, my husband is going to be making more money, driving farther, etc. so it’s all on me to not only find a way to bring in more money, but to also work it out with the kids.

I’ve thought about teaching, but I’d need to get a license and right now I just don’t have the money for the licensing exam, especially if I need to take it more than once.

I’m so stressed out trying to find a way to make everything work financially. I wish my husband would look for a new (better paying) job, but he won’t. He hasn’t had a raise in 6 years and hasn’t left the company, so I don’t think his employer for feels like it’s terribly urgent to give him more money. At the same time, regular expenses (like water and electricity) have doubled. I’ve put off doing something about it for too long and I hope I can find a solution soon.

Tenure in Schools Needs to Go

Everyone loves to talk about how America’s schools are failing. They all have their ideas as to why — everything from funding to the No Child Left Behind Act. Most school administrators would tell you it’s a lack of extra support services.

Do you want to know what this mom thinks? I think it’s the tenure system.

Every teacher or family member of a teacher that just read this is probably groaning, rolling their eyes and possibly clicking away right now, but hear me out.

My oldest has been in public school for 2 years now (she’s in the 1st grade). Both years she has had less than great teachers that spent more time out of the classroom than in. It was bad in kindergarten with the teacher disinterested in the curriculum and leaving the classroom an average of once a week, but in 1st grade, the teacher is out more than she’s in. When she’s in the classroom, my daughter tells me she frequently screams at the kids and tells them they’re not doing enough.

She hates her teacher and what’s worse is that she hates school at this point. She’s in 1st grade. She’s supposed to love school.

She has nightly homework which consists of reading, math and vocabulary words (we were pressured to finish all of the 1st grade sight words within the first few weeks of school). If she has any unfinished desk work from the day, that comes home too. She gets home in the afternoon at 3:30pm. If we have any after school activities or would just like to just enjoy the nice weather a little bit, there’s very little time left for homework, so she winds up having to stay up late to finish it, leaving her tired the next day. I tried skipping the homework on days when she had activities, but the teacher found out and screamed at her along with the other kids that had been doing the same thing on days that they had any other obligations.

All of the parents in this classroom know the teacher is screaming at the kids. We all comment on how frequently they have substitutes (2-3 times a week) The other teachers in the school know. The principal knows. Everyone knows. This is not unusual.

I questioned the substitute issue. Apparently on days when the teacher has an IEP meeting with a parent, they call in a substitute for the day. Apparently there are a lot of kids in that school with an IEP and she can’t meet with more than one of their parents per day. I’m making some broad assumptions here, there’s only 20 kids in the class.

The screaming issue however, the teacher vehemently denies. She says she gets a little excited. I told her the kids are interpreting it as screaming. That was a mistake. She screamed at the kids for telling their parents she was screaming at them.

The school can’t remove her. She’s not physically hurting the kids (only mentally) and she has tenure. Ah tenure. I hate tenure. Job protection should not exist in a performance-based field. If a teacher is unable to teach because they have lost their passion or are just plain crazy, they should not have job protection. It should not take hurting a child for a teacher to be replaced. The schools should be able to always have the option of bringing in better people.

I know that there are districts that would abuse this ability by constantly bringing in younger teachers at lower pay grades, so make them justify the firings to the school committee. I think being bat-shit crazy and yelling at kids almost daily would be a justifiable offense though.

Money Saving Tip: Use Ebates for Online Shopping

If you haven’t heard about Ebates, you’re missing out. Ebates is the site that gives you cash back on your regular online shopping. Amounts vary from 1% to 30% depending on where you go! (Spoiler alert – ProFlowers is at 30% cash back just in time for Mother’s Day!)
The site also gathers coupon codes and shows them to you when you select a store to shop at, so you’ll never miss a deal ever again. It’s fantastic and best of all, it doesn’t cost a thing to join or to use!

That’s right, you can sign up to Ebates ABSOLUTELY FREE and start saving money with coupon codes and cash back. Once you’ve accumulated enough cash back in your account (hint: amounts never expire), Ebates will send you a check to the address you give them. It’s REAL cash back, not points or gift cards.

If you like hearing about deals and ways to save money, say thanks by using my referral link when sign up to Ebates. Creating an account takes just a second and you’ve got nothing to lose.

iPhone Unsubscribe Feature: Does it Work??

Like most people, my email inbox fills up twice a day with dozens of messages, most of which I don’t care to read. More often than not they’re from mailing lists that I signed up for in order to get a coupon or to enter a giveaway.

Unfortunately, I spend more time than I should deleting these messages each day and every time I get a notification that I have a new email, I run and check my inbox in case it’s something important. It rarely is. Unsubscribing to these messages is cumbersome and can often take 2-3 steps to do. It’s nearly impossible on a phone because the links are tiny and the web pages they take you to take forever to load.

However, I’m an iPhone user and I recently found a feature that I thought was great — the UNSUBSCRIBE link. When you read an email on your iPhone, at the top of the message it says it’s from a mailing list and asks if you’d like to unsubscribe. I clicked the link on a few to see if it would work and….

It does not. At least not on the ones I tried. Boo. 😦

So fellow email warriors, if you want to unsubscribe from a newsletter or mailing list, it looks like you have to keep doing it the old fashioned way.