Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Frugal Successes and Failures: Wednesday 2/17/16

  • Foggy this morning but lovely day in store for us :)

  • My house is a mess again and I need to do the dishes (so what's new?) but I spent most of the morning making phone calls, which is something that I needed to do and had been putting off for a while.  I so dislike making phone calls. Why can't we just communicate via emails or even live chats all the time?  lol.

  • I have to roll back part of a rant I wrote recently: when I went to update my budget to reflect the monthly increase in my internet service, it became apparent that I had already known about it since I had already changed the monthly amount moving forward.  So... Brighthouse had indeed sent a notice about the increase, which doesn't make me feel any better about it but at least they didn't do it without giving me advance notice, which is what I thought had happened.  A forgetful mind is a terrible thing!

  • Today's post is going to be a hybrid of bullet points and paragraphs.  I typed up a bunch of stuff and it might not all fall under "successes" even though they're listed as such but I'm too busy to try and move things around!

  • Addendum late tonight: my son got confirmation that he WILL be playing trumpet for Josh Groban during 3 upcoming concerts in a couple of weeks. Woohoo!  It's just one song but it's a good one (this version has Chris Botti as the trumpet player, who is my 2nd favorite trumpet player and one of my son's as well).  The Orlando concert is completely sold out. I'm disappointed but also relieved because, frankly, I'd be a nervous wreck! I hope all goes well.

  • I packed leftovers from last night for Greg to take to work.
  • The kids packed their lunches to take to school.

  • I reused water collected in the shower to flush the toilet.

  • Bing Rewards: earned my daily credits.

  • Swagbucks: a more reasonable goal of 85 SB today and I did qualify for a 50 SB survey this morning. So that, combined with JunoGroup and Ngage videos and my 10 SB from SBTV (oh I qualified for a bonus round but I needed to watch 22 videos to get 2 SB.  What?! No.), helped me meet my 1st goal and you know what?  I'm not going to worry about earning more than that at this point for today because I need to be productive.  Also, I took a "quick survey" from my inbox for just 5 SB that, of course, didn't get credited so I had to email them again. It's getting old, people. Really old.  Update: they credited me with the 5 SB.  Do you know how you know that you've emailed Customer Service too many times?  When their Customer Satisfaction Survey Site won't let you fill out a satisfaction survey anymore because they've blocked your IP address.  Seriously, this is what is happening to me now. I can't even say "Thank you so much for your help" as I tell them every time they help me!

  • SavingStar credited my account with the rebates earned at Walmart yesterday.

  • I called the vet's office to see if the tapeworm medicine was ready to be picked up and it is so I'll have to go there today too.

  • The Jr. NHS school coordinator hadn't replied to me (I emailed her last Friday) about whether a letter from the library system would qualify as a Community Service letter for my son's application so I emailed the 2nd coordinator this morning.  She replied to me a couple of hours later and agreed that it would work, so I scanned the form and emailed it to my local library's manager and the Youth Services Coordinator.  Between the two, I hope one of them will agree to fill out the form!  Update: the Youth Services Coordinator agreed to fill out the letter and I should be able to pick it up tomorrow, yay! Now to convince my son to write an essay (part of the application) and to get 3 teachers to sign recommendation forms.

  • I finally went on our health insurance's website and try to find the place where I could price prescriptions in various pharmacies. I found something and somehow my local Publix Pharmacy was the default choice, which helped.  My son has 3 prescriptions for his acne and so far my interactions with the pharmacy imposed on my by his dermatologist haven't been great (probably my fault more than anything else because I'm cranky and I want things my way, not their way) so I was hoping to be able to switch the prescriptions to Publix.  I wrote down the information. It seemed that one prescription would cost half what the other pharmacy charges me, but the other 2 would be higher.  I called the pharmacy that I don't like to verify their prices and actually spoke with someone who was very pleasant without being obsequious (which really gets my goat, I hate when people patronize me!) so that was a good interaction.  I decided to refill the 2 prescriptions that we needed at that pharmacy after all. Why?  I didn't want to mess with transferring a prescription, having to deal with 2 pharmacies and I'm going to be in Clermont later today anyway so I can pick it up tonight.  When we hung up, I was feeling guilty that I hadn't been more frugal and gone with the 2 pharmacies deal to save about $17 on the one prescription, so I made myself a chart in Excel to see what my total cost would be if I stayed with the current pharmacy or if I transferred everything to Publix.  Well, actually staying with the current pharmacy would be about $5 cheaper per month so that's all the justification I need NOT to switch just the one prescription, lol.  I just don't need more headaches having to explain the 2 pharmacy thing when we go back to the dermatologist next time.  I'm glad I did the chart, though, as I thought I was really overpaying a lot. Turns out, not really.

  • So then I dealt with that Health FSA claim that was denied.  Now that I authorized myself on our account (!), I got the paperwork out again, checked the website (still denied) and made my call. Somehow the phone tree wasn't as involved today as 2 weeks ago (geez, maybe they do listen to the survey feedback?!) and I got to talk to someone right away.  I warned him that I was very frustrated with the whole thing so he would be mentally prepared :)  So I explained the situation again: son got fillings at the dentist in December, I paid a co-pay at the time that WAS approved by the FSA, but then got an additional bill in early January from the dentist because our dental insurance hadn't covered everything they had thought would be covered. My bill was for $31.20. I paid it with my Health FSA Visa card since I knew that 1) we still had money in the 2015 account and 2) we definitely had money in the 2016 account and 3) my account has a rollover feature so you don't lose the 2015 money if you didn't use it all up (up to $400).  Well, they denied the claim because "the service wasn't in the the plan year."  WTF, right?  So today the guy started by parroting the same explanation over and over again. OK, so I'm going to sound obnoxious, and keep in mind that I'm not from here either and I have an accent too, but I'm really tired of dealing with customer service reps from overseas who have very thick accents and are trained not to think for themselves or even offer possible solutions to customers, but just to repeat the same damn things over and over again like parrots. My phone call took 18 minutes because he just kept on repeating a spiel.  I kept on pointing out the inanity of what he was saying and we were just going in circles.  The story is this: as of 12/30/15, we still had $18.11 in the Health FSA account for 2015 expenses.  On 1/1/16, our chosen contribution of $600 hit the Health FSA account but that is reserved for services incurred in 2016.  Their system automatically starts deducting claims from the 2016 contributions on January 1, regardless whether the actual services were provided in 2015.  So they denied my claim, because the money had been charged to the 2016 account. By them. Still with me?  Now, I have until March 30 to claim expenses for 2015.  However the rollover of the 2015 remaining funds into the 2016 account won't happen until April 14.  Still with me now?  Because my head is starting to hurt.  Now, imagine getting this from a very heavily accented person on the phone, but not even in that order, and hearing those little pieces of information being repeated over and over again with any type of useful suggestion on how we could proceed forward...  Finally, I said "Pretend you're me and you're hearing what you're telling me.   If you're denying me the claim, then how, as a CUSTOMER, would have handled the payment back in January so you could actually claim the $18.11 that you are due?!"  So finally a lightbulb must have come on and we came to the conclusion that I needed to get the dentist office to reverse the $31.20 charge back to the Health FSA account and pay the $31.20 charge out of my "own pocket"  (personal credit card or cash) and then resubmit all the documentation as a "Pay Me Back" claim whereby they would send me a check for the $18.11 that would be applicable to the claim.  Good grief.  This definitely is making me rethink using a Health FSA next year.   Now we're talking $18, but what if one of us had cancer and contributed $5,000 in our Health FSA and hadn't gotten the bill until 2016?  We would have had to pay the $5,000 from savings (assuming that we had them) and then submit the forms to get refunded OUR OWN MONEY from the 2015 FSA contributions because their freaking system won't apply claims to 2015 available funds if you pay with the Health FSA card. Isn't that madness?!  I think I might write to my Congressman about this. Seriously. In the meantime, I added a reminder to my calendar for every January 1st to remind myself of this, on the off chance that we do continue to have a Health FSA account.

  • So after all that, he asked me to fill out a Customer Satisfaction Survey. You know what? I'm gonna sit on that one until my claim is actually approved.

  • I called the dentist office to see if they could even do an FSA credit card refund and I would then pay them right away with another means of payment. But the lady who answered the phone wasn't the one who I need to talk to. So I'll stop by this afternoon when she's back into the office so I can talk to her face to face. Wish me luck.  Ugh.

  • Then I tried calling my middle son who never replied to me yesterday because I'm worried that he's being so unresponsive. Again, I got his voicemail (I think he might be in class) so I called his dad to see if he had heard from our son since Sunday but I got his voicemail too. What good is having cell phones if no one ever answers the phone?!  lol.  Update: he texted our son who texted me about 30 minutes later that he was alive.  So I asked him a question. He didn't reply. Then he butt called me twice. Finally he texted me that he would call me when he got out of his classes but I'll probably be at the doctor's by then so I won't be able to pick up :(

  • I wrote a note to my mail carrier, explaining that I couldn't open my mailbox and to please put the mail in a package locker because I need it today. I taped it over her keyhole to distribute the mail so hopefully that'll do the trick. I'll probably be gone when she comes around to deliver the mail. Update: I left to run my 1st batch of errands at about 1 p.m. and noticed that the note wasn't on the mailbox anymore. I checked my mailbox and I was able to open it as she had pushed everything away from the door.  Phew!  I had a couple of freebies in there and our new Mastercards.
This freebie from Target went to my daughter
  • So now it's 11:30 a.m. and that's ALL I've gotten to do this morning. Oh, I gave the cat her medicine (waves at Tara!).  The antibiotic only since I haven't gotten a chance to go to the vet's this morning.  Since the dentist's lady won't be in until after noon, I'll have to run errands twice this afternoon:

    • 1) Go to RaceTrac to pick up a freebie. Update: done!

    • 2) Go to the vet's to get the tapeworm medicine. Update: done!  Got that and more Advantage II flea prevention doses.  So, come to find out, they didn't want me to give her Advantage II until 48 hours after putting the topical dewormer. Since I put the Advantage II on her last night, I have to wait until tomorrow night to give her the dewormer.  Ugh.  On a bright note, they still had the "buy 4 doses, get 2 free" promo going on for the Advantage II. Also good: they apparently had lied to me when they said they had mailed me her rabies and license tags because they were in her file (this whole time I thought our mail carrier had screwed up again!). But bad: another $112 gone to the vet's pocket and from my checking account ($85 for flea medication for 2 months, $21 for dewormer).  Ugh.

    • 3) Stop by the dentist to try to sort out this FSA bullshit.  Update: done!  The lady wasn't where yet but another clerk was able to help me.  So now I have to wait until the credit hits the FSA account and once that's done, then resubmit my claim (I paid with my Amex this time) and hopefully get a check for $18.11.  Putting reminders on my calendar...

  • Then once my son gets out of school:
    • 1) we have to leave right away to drive to his pediatrician's for his annual check-up. Done!  We had to wait a long time in the examining room because there were only 2 doctors on staff that day, but we didn't have to pay a co-pay.  I requested my son get a flu shot and that was covered by our insurance as well.

    • 2) afterwards I want to stop by CVS to get more Special K. Done!  I bought 3 boxes of Special K on sale @ $1.99 each, used the (3) $1.00/1 coupons from KFR and the $1.00/2 store coupon from the kiosk, and my total was $1.97. I paid with my CVS gift card from our Mastercard Rewards program so it was all free to me ;)  Two of the boxes have KFR codes printed on them so I'll be able to double dip on the KFR points. The 3rd box was one of those that might have a sticker inside signifying that I had won a Microsoft Surface 3, but of course, my box wasn't a winner :(

    • 3) then go to Dunkin' Donuts to get him a snack (and earn a freebie or two!). Done!  We bought a donut for my son and I paid with my app (I had loaded a $10 GC on it at Christmas time which had earned me a $5 rebate from American Express) and earned a free beverage freebie to use on a future visit. I will also be able to take the survey on my receipt and earn another free donut :)

    • 4) stop by the pharmacy to get his prescriptions. Done!

    • 5) go to Kohl's to get him a pair of jeans or two.  Done, but we couldn't find any jeans that would fit my son (he's very tall and skinny so it's hard to find jeans that fit him) for the price that I was willing to pay so since I had $20 in Kohl's cash to use up anyway ($10 from Yes2You and $10 from Discover), I bought myself a pair of black ballet shoes (mine are old and could stand to be replaced) and 2 sets of 2 Valentine's Day dishtowels on clearance for 80% off.  At the register, I was $2 short of using up all the Kohl's cash so I picked up a Godiva chocolate bar to make up the difference. However, after the register redistributed all the Kohl's cash and the 30% discount that I had among all the items, then my OOP was $3.47 and only $0.23 was tax. So I actually didn't have to buy that darn chocolate bar (which ended up being $2.95, not $2.00 as the cashier had told me).  Grrrr.
I kind of needed new kitchen towels anyway.  Since the graphics are food-related ("We go together like salt & pepper" and "we go together like peanut butter & jelly"), I'll just use them year-round.
    • 6) possibly get gas at RaceTrac and pick up another freebie.  Not done.  We actually ended up stopping by Aldi to pick up a pizza and a can of pineapple because I wasn't going to have to cook dinner before Greg got home.

    • 7) go home and cook dinner. Well, I added toppings to our cheese pizza and baked it.

  • While I was looking for my phone charging cable (see "Failures:), I found a package of my favorite soft gingerbread Christmas cookie that I had stashed under my desk and forgotten about. Yay!  Uh, what diet?

  • Hey!  I got my Upromise check already :)  $137.41.  I should put it in our regular checking account but I think I'll put it in the savings account I keep for "car savings" that had been depleted when we bought the family car.

  • We got the new Mastercards in the mail to replace those that had been compromised. I checked our account after activating them and guess what?  The credit union is charging us $0.19 in "cash advance interest" because they transferred the (small) balance from our old account to our new account. That balance isn't even due yet. Whaaat?!  So I emailed them (I've had my fill of phone conversations for the day!) so request for the $0.19 charge to be removed from our account. Damn it, it's OUR $0.19 not theirs!  Update: they apologized and said they would remove the charge.

  • I won a 4th free Snickers bar at the Snickers 50 Challenge IWG. Woohoo!

  • Dunkin' Donuts confirmed that I had earned a free beverage. Yay!

  • Kellogg's emailed me a 200 point code to "bridge" me over to 5,000 points. Woohoo!

  • My son had brought a book along at the doctor's office and mentioned that he really liked it but it was the 5th book in a series (it had been given to him) so I checked the library's catalog and put the first book in the series on hold for him.

  • My middle son did call me at dinner time and confirmed that he was alive but didn't need a table anymore because his grandmother gave him a few furniture pieces since she is moving and didn't need so much stuff. He also said that he contacted several photography studios in the Orlando area about setting up some interviews to act as their assistant and several of them did reply and wanted to set up interviews. Woohoo, I hope something pans out for him :)

  • Gas to run errands TWICE
  • Dunkin' Donuts treat for my son
  • Godiva chocolate bar for me

  • I can't find my phone charging cable and adapter that I usually keep in my SUV. I remember throwing it in my daughter's car for our trip to Gainesville but I never actually used it on that day so I'm hoping it's still in her car somewhere. I texted her to ask her to look for it when she gets a chance since she's gone all day.  Update: she found it, yay!

  • Cooked breakfast for Greg
  • Packed his lunch
  • Set the breakfast table for the kids
  • Collected the recycling throughout the house and took the bin down the curb for collection
  • Called the vet's
  • Corresponded with another Jr. NHS counselor via email
  • Corresponded with library staff via email
  • Researched prescriptions' cost on health insurance website
  • Called pharmacy to renew prescriptions
  • Wrote note for mail carrier
  • Organized Health FSA paperwork
  • Called Health FSA to straighten out rejected claim
  • Called dentist's to find out if could process refund
  • Corresponded with middle son via texts
  • Did a load of dishes
  • Ran errands part 1: RaceTrac, vet's, dentist's
  • Ran errands part 2: doctor's, CVS, Dunkin' Donuts, pharmacy, Kohl's, Aldi
  • Cooked dinner

  • Not sure if anything I did today was productive towards my 2016 goals, other than making sure we weren't paying for things that we shouldn't be paying for, and making sure that what we were entitled to actually got credited to us.

  • Liquids:
    • 2 cups coffee
  • Food:
    • Breakfast:
      • 1 bowl Post Great Grains with ~2% milk
    • Mid Morning Snack:
      • nothing
    • Lunch:
      • Chinese Pork Roast leftovers with "everything" French bread
    • Mid Afternoon Snack:
      • pouch of applesauce
    • Dinner:
      • 2 slices ham and pineapple pizza
    • Evening Snack:
      • Godiva chocolate bar
  • Weight:
    • Oh who has time for this?!? On a side note, the 2nd vet at the practice looks like she lost half her body weight!  I hadn't seen her in months and she's like a totally different person, I almost didn't recognize her. She's lost 40 lbs!  Protein diet, staying away from sweets and bread.  OK, so not the diet for me, lol.

  • Exercise:
    • How about I used the phone a lot today?  All this dialing... that's gotta count for something.
Did you have any frugal successes or failures today? Please do tell!


  1. Wow I listened to the Josh Groban song its lovely, you must be seriously proud of your son, its a shame its sold out. I can completely understand that you would be nervous for him though!

    Poor you all those calls and your health FSA, really? How did you control yourself I think I'd have found a way to shove the phone down his throat. What a farce!

    Are you mocking me with the Dunkin donuts? That's two days in a row now and I STILL haven't had one.

    Thanks for the wave, I'm glad kitty is being sorted out, sorry its costing so much though.

    I'm glad you finally got hold of your middle son, don't you hate that when they don't reply. My eldest son was at his dads last year and he had an exam, he asked me to ring him at 7.00am to wake him, no answer. I kept ringing untill half seven. His dad, who was a work, also rung me because he couldn't get hold of him. I went over to his dads and was banging on the door, my younger son climbed over the fence and was banging on the back door. In the end his dad rang and told me to break a window to get in. I picked up a huge rock and crashed it into the window, it didn't break the window but woke my son up, he came downstairs in his pyjamas and said c'mon lets go! Honestly I could have killed him.

    1. ROFLMAO! Sorry but I really laughed when I read your son's story. Oh my, I would have been livid too and this could have totally happened because my older kids slept through fire alarms (tests), and all sorts of noises (and through their alarms a few times). I'll be your ex was happy you didn't actually bring the window at the same time relieved that your son was OK. Kids...

      No, I wasn't mocking you with the donuts and I did think about you, hahaha. I hope you get one soon, although it's a slippery slope with those.

      I was pretty pleased with myself that I got all those phone calls done and I didn't yell at anyone, although I sure was feeling like it with that FSA phone call. Ugh. Hopefully that'll definitely get sorted out this time although I doubt it.

    2. I know I was so angry at the time but its one of those things you look back on and really laugh about.

      Oh well at least you thought about me when you bought the donut. Ha ha, I really shouldn't have one anyway...

      I'm proud of you! I bet they don't normally have such controlled customers if that's the way they treat them! Xx

    3. Thank you,Tara. Greg would roll his eyes if he knew you called me a "controlled customer", lol.

  2. Swagbucks sounds like a major pain. Makes me happy I don't try fooling with it. The few times I did I got so annoyed with it. Happy your son gets to play with Josh Groban.

    1. Thanks, Jess! Yes, SB is a great opportunity to earn those gift cards but man... it's no Bing Rewards when it comes to the ease of earning those credits. Every morning I'm sighing and thinking "That's IT! I'm done with it, not going to even go on it today" but I'm completely addicted to the gift cards so then I feel guilty and they reel me back in like that :) But one day I'm gonna crack and quit cold turkey.

  3. You got a lot accomplished! I wanted to let you know about Valley Vet -- they're an online vet supply company and offer Advantage II at a pretty reasonable price. I can't tell from your accounting if you purchased a pack that will last for several months or not. We have six cats (I know) and although they're all indoor cats, we've had a minor flea infestation. Apparently they're pretty bad in FL this year. Ugh. Anyway, the medication the first vet recommended was REALLY expensive. So when I took a different cat in this month I asked about more affordable options and she recommended advantage II and Valley Vet. Maybe this will help you too!

    1. Thanks Laura! (on a side note, I just added your blog to my Feedly a couple of days ago!). I just looked at my Advantage II package again and the promo was actually for "buy SIX doses, get 2 free" and I paid $85 + another $5 in tax for it. So that's really $90 for 8 doses = $11.25 per dose. I checked Vet Valley out and the 6 pack ships free and is $59.99 so $9.99 per dose but I'm assuming we'd pay the 7% tax (?) so $10.70 per dose? So the cost is close. HOWEVER, it's only close because I don't count the "free" 2 doses that I got as being actually free. I have 3 cats so that's almost a 3-month supply. I'm bookmarking Valley Vet so if the "get 2 free" promo isn't into effect next time, I'll ask them for a Rx to order it online too.

      Aaack, 6 cats?! You are a true cat lover, lol. All of them indoors, too, like ours. I guess you must have brought fleas in from the outside on your clothes, somehow.

      Where are you located in Florida, by the way?

    2. We're in Jacksonville, so kind of that weird part of the state that doesn't have quite the typical "Florida" weather that everyone thinks of. Sometimes I'm grateful for that, sometimes not. :) You don't need an RX for the advantage II -- that's why I checked with my vet; I was hoping for some reasonably priced over the counter medicines that were effective. I know that our vet carries it, but you can buy it at PetSmart and other similar places, too.

    3. Ah, Jax... my ex went to high school in Orange Park and his stepdaughter is at UNF right now. You get the snow and the cold, eh? We have a microclimate where I live so while it's mostly like the rest of Florida, it makes it hard to garden because there's always something that's different than in the main Florida gardening zones. But I'm glad we don't get the cold as "often" as you guys. It's nice to read another blog from Florida, though. I love that you talk about your shopping trips and you go to a lot of the same stores as I do!

      Oh, another good tip about the Advantage II, I thought you did need a Rx. I'll definitely get it from them, then. I'll have to price Petco and Pet Supermarket too since we have those stores in the next town over and usually has a $10 Pet Supermarket coupon that you can print (although I'm not sure if there's a restriction on what it can be used for...)

  4. What a list of accomplishments! Go Nathalie. You got those dreaded phone calls done and your lists of finished errands are really impressive. You sound organized.

    1. LOL, did you just read by any chance the post where I said that everyone who meets me always seems impressed by how "organized" I am but that I'm actually a big mess?! I think people have this perception of me because I always take notes, have alarms going off on my phone to remind me to do things (I mean, constantly, otherwise nothing would ever get done!), and talk about organization a whole lot. In reality... I like to make plans but I don't like the actual "now let's get things done!" part. I'm like the perfect overseeing manager. If I was neater, I could be one of those closet designers, you know?

      But yay, it felt great to have placed those phone calls, finally. I still need to follow up with the Health FSA to see if I can resubmit my claim now. Thanks for reminding me, Susan!


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