Good Health Insurance Is a Must

With a number of friends and family in the hospital, visiting doctor specialists and getting high-cost medical tests at an alarming rate, my mind turns to the need for good health insurance. Luckily, most people I know have access to affordable health insurance, whether through their jobs, pension plans or the federal government.

One (unbelievably strong, sweet and brave person) I know just underwent major brain surgery. Another family friend has been fighting back from failed kidneys and a host of unfathomable maladies, and hopes to have a second transplant in the coming weeks. A close family member has needed numerous diagnostic tests and medications. Yet another friend gave birth prematurely and her son (who is home, healthy and happy) spent time in the NICU.

If they didn’t have adequate, affordable health insurance, their medical conditions and treatments would be an incredible financial burden for their families.

Unavailability of good AND affordable health insurance, that which can cover everything from an annual routine physical to a multiweek hospital stay, keeps many people in my father’s generation from retiring early. While most workers qualify for Social Security at 62, Medicare health insurance doesn’t kick in until age 65. That means most “early retirees” must scramble for health insurance coverage. For example, my father-in-law could get medical insurance through his union, but it’s cost-prohibitive thanks to sky-high premiums. Or he can wait until he’s 65 and get on Medicare, and possibly add on coverage at a smaller cost.

If and when I retire many years from now, there’s no guarantee Medicare, or Social Security for that matter, will still be around. I likely won’t have a pension because I’ve never been in a union, nor do I have a government job, and I don’t work for a company that offers one.

But for those people retiring now and others who are facing big medical challenges in their lives, the need for adequate health insurance is a priority.


Hallmarks of Good Health Insurance

1. Features reasonable premiums

2. Covers hospitalization

3. Has reasonable co-pays, co-insurance and deductibles

4. Provides easy access to primary doctors and specialists


Having health insurance is a no-brainer for most people, but having good health insurance is of paramount importance, especially if you find yourself facing a major medical issue. Just giving birth to a child (no C-section) could have cost us $30,000 — with health insurance, we paid $3,300. It was still a lot, but far from full price.

No, I *Don’t* Need to Buy Things for Vacation

We’re less than 6 weeks away from our first-ever vacation with Miss Frugalista, and it may be a crazy idea: We’ve decided to rent a house with 10 other friends and take a road trip from New Jersey down to North Carolina’s Outer Banks for a full week. Most likely, the bulk of the ride will feature a 18-month-old crying because she wants to get out of her carseat, but we’ll be stopping a few times on the way for bathroom breaks/diaper changes/meals, and, most importantly, to stretch our legs. It will be fun trying to pump our own gas. Maybe I should have someone explain how to do it before we leave!

I’ve had to rein myself in when it comes to picking up vacation “essentials.” The house we’re renting has a pool AND is on the beach, so there are some baby safety considerations. While I have my eye on a $50 beach shelter, I’m still unsure about flotation devices. We already have a large, foldable outdoor gate (formerly the “baby jail”) that may be useful for corralling purposes. I’ve already spent money on a backseat organizer for the car ride down and water shoes so the sand doesn’t burn her little feet. We’re going to use her old Pack ‘n’ Play for a crib, but I want to pick up a $25 playard mattress so she can rest more comfortably at night. We have some beach toys we got for her birthday in February, so that’s covered. She has plenty of sun hat that she won’t wear, and I don’t think I’ll bother with baby sunglasses for the same reason.

My husband believes he needs some T-shirts, and I desperately need a new bathing suit (or two), which is something I’d better buy sooner rather than later — I saw SWEATERS on the racks in Target the other day. I’ve stocked up on sunblock.

Making Our Own Meals to Save Money

What will be nice is that we’ll be buying our own food, with just one dinner planned for a local restaurant. Between the 12 of us, we’re renting a grill and propane tank for $60 a week – that’s just $5 per person — and the majority of our meals will involve BBQ. Breakfast can be a simple bowl of cereal or a “fancier” meal of eggs, bacon and toast, or even pancakes.

We’re all meeting up one day this month to talk about what food we’ll be bringing or buying once we’re in North Carolina and also set up a meal schedule — each of us will try our hand at cooking a meal for the group.

Sharing Resources

Another thing we’ll be planning is who will bring which items. Do we need 10 beach umbrellas when two pop-up canopies would do? So we’ll sort out things of that nature, too, so we’re not buying or bringing superfluous items — we’ll have enough to bring with us as it is! Since Miss Frugalista will be the only child there, we’re in charge of all of the baby stuff.

So besides food, gas for the car, and a few clothing necessities, we shouldn’t have to spend a lot of money — even the house rental was more than reasonable for a 7-day stay. We’re definitely looking forward to the trip, which we think will be a lot of fun.

Has anyone else taken a young toddler on a beach vacation? Is there anything else we should bring with us?

Using Coupons for Grocery Shopping

I used to be a halfway-decent couponer. I dutifully clipped coupons from the Sunday newspaper, weeded out the expired ones from my coupon organizer, and flowed the new ones in. I’d match up the coupons to the weekly grocery store sales, and save about $10-$20 on my order — my local ShopRite doubles manufacturer coupons up to 99 cents, so that’s a big help.

But the past few trips, I haven’t used one coupon. Not a one. Except for a $8 off a total order coupon, which was on the front-page of the grocery store flier a few weeks ago.

I just cleaned out my coupon organizer, and I found coupons going back to late May. I suppose part of the reason is that I’ve been getting a lot of our nonperishable food items from our local Target, which has better prices than the grocery store, where not even a doubled coupon could get me Velveeta Mac & Cheese for $1.50 a box. Or my K-cups, or cereal. But there’s no way in hell I’m going to get fresh meat, dairy or produce at Target — and that’s the time of stuff that doesn’t get the coupon treatment.

So I’m committing myself to couponing for my next big grocery store shopping trip in two weeks or so. We’ll see what happens, because the sales (and the coupons) have been pretty awful lately.

My Child Doesn’t Sit Still

Miss Frugalista is turning into a (much cuter version) of the Energizer bunny — she just keeps going, and going, and going.

And I’m having a hard time keeping up with her!

Now, I realize I’m also one of those always-going people. In fact, my endocrinologist asked if I worked out a lot because my pulse is always so low. I almost died laughing at that one. I don’t exactly have an athletic build — in fact, an old softball teammate remarked that it was ‘painful’ to watch me run. You can’t run too gracefully with these curves.

Anyway, back to my point, that I’m always doing something. I could be painting trim, putting up sheetrock, planing doors or working in the yard at any given time. I don’t know what downtime is. Mr. Not-So-Frugal knows that it’s like pulling teeth to get me to sit down and watch a TV show — even if it’s one I like. I don’t have an “off” switch.

That being said, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that our daughter is turning out to be a mini-me. Other mothers tell me all about how their similarly-aged child will sit on a blanket with them at the park in a shade and play with toys, or sweetly pass out on the couch (or, even more oddly, on a baby trampoline, but that’s neither here nor there).

My child? She’s just turned 17 months old and is already climbing the stairs standing up and holding the railing on one side, and holding my hand on the other. She’s picking up her little leg and trying to swing it over any obstacle that gets in the way of her running like a loon around the house. Baby gate? Leg goes up. Crib? Leg goes up. Thank goodness she’s still short, but I’m counting the days until she figures out how to escape the crib. THEN we’re in trouble.

Forget trying to corral her. If she’s feeling too-contained, she will point and whine and plead her case until you get her out of what I lovingly call “baby jail.” A trip into Mommy’s office results in all of the books being pulled off the bookshelves. Bath time never involves just sitting in the 3 inches of water and playing — she’s standing and trying to turn on the faucet. And her idea of unwinding before bedtime is to take the two 2-foot-wide pillows from the futon in her room, lay them on the ground, and JUMP on them, face/belly first. So, dear readers, you can see how exhausted I am. My only solace is that she really doesn’t get herself into trouble.

We’re going to a trip to North Carolina next month, where we’ll be the only ones out of our group of 12 friends who has a child. Folks, I hope you’re ready for the Tasmanian Toddler — we’re gonna need a lot of sangria after she goes to bed!