How we dropped health insurance

Healthcare. Insurance.  Deductibles. Co-pays.

This was not something that I gave much thought to for many years.  I just knew that quite a large sum was being deducted each month from our take home pay.

When I quit working full time, we had to work some magic with the budget.    One of the expenses that stood out (screaming “I’m a rip off!”) was the amount that we paid each month for health insurance.

We started looking at those dollars…all 1500 of them and wondered what we could do differently.  Without even considering the high deductible, we felt that we could do better.

Medical Appointment Doctor Healthcare Clin

My husband, being the researcher that he is,  spent several months looking into alternative insurances and plans.  We compared prices and reviews.

We chose Medi-Share.  Now, let me be clear.  Medi-share is NOT insurance. Here is my very abbreviated explanation of what it is and how it has worked to save us money.

So what is Medi-share? 

Medi-share is a Christian sharing ministry, following the Biblical principle of dividing resources and helping your neighbor.  We pay $551 per month for our family’s membership. Our deductible is $3750.  Once we reach our deductible, our bills are submitted and are “shared” to other members.

A big concern for us was if we would need to change our pediatrician and clinic.  We were relieved to find that so many doctors were part of the network and we did not have to change doctors.

What about the doctor bills?

We have a copay when we have an appointment and that is all that we pay up front.  The provider adjusts the amount by a “contractual write off” and then we are billed.  That same step happens with insurance.  The next part is how the process differs.  The amount that is  left over is now fully your responsibility and goes toward your deductible.  Although we might sometimes have a large remainder, we would have to spend $1000 a month out of pocket in order for us to equal what we were paying in our insurance premium.

I’ll admit that at first it felt as though we were breaking the rules. I probably asked my husband a hundred questions before going to the doctor for the first time without “insurance.”  Somehow I had been led to believe that I have to go with the majority.  I’m happy to say that 2 1/2 years later, we are still pleased.  We know that we are saving money each month and plan to continue using Medi-share.

If you and your family are looking into alternatives for your insurance needs, I’d recommend checking it out.

Just so that you know,  this link is my referral link.   If you have questions about Medi-share, I’d be happy to answer from my experience.  Feel free to send me a message.


Budget Doesn’t Equal Broke

What is a budget?  What is its purpose?  Who needs a budget?

Office, Tax, Business, Finance, Document

I’m answering those questions from my perspective during this post.

The dictionary’s definition of a budget is:  an estimate of income and expenditure for a set period of time.  Synonyms include a financial plan or forecast.  I could not find any definition that included words like burden, hassle, or being broke. 🙂   Although many people believe that is what budget means.  Maybe we will call it a spending plan.  That sounds friendlier. 🙂 When I mention”budget” to some people, they automatically associate the term with being broke.  I think “having a budget” has gotten a bad reputation and can often lead people to think negatively.

I know that many people disagree but I believe that everyone could benefit from a budget.  I won’t go so far as to say everyone “needs” a budget but I do think it can benefit every income level.

Budgeting (or learning how yours will work) takes some time.  It takes a while to figure out exactly what works for you.  Time is one of the reasons that I feel some people don’t try to save money.

There are many, many different ways to budget.  Many people budget very strategically and give every dollar a category.  Others lump the required expenditures together and the rest can be used differently based on the month.

What I have found through using a budget is that I feel so much more successful.  That may sound crazy because sometimes I can’t get what I “want” because the money is not in the budget.  What a budget allows me to do is to set aside money for something that I really desire.  I know that I don’t have to say that I simply can’t have something if I really really love it.  It just means that the money has to come from some where.  It is not going to magically appear.  If I get that one thing, I might not get something else.  It doesn’t replenish itself automatically around here.  Wouldn’t that be cool, though?

The budget that my husband and I use (and this was developed after much trial and error) has several detailed categories. These came about after we had expenses that had no where to “go” to be accounted for.  Many of these may or may not relate to your personal needs.

If you’ve been doing a budget, then this is going to sound very simple.  If you have not, just bear with me.  Start with your income.  You need to determine your income schedule (weekly, biweekly, monthly).  That will be a big part of deciding what gets paid when.

Then begin with your set expenses.  For me, these include our tithe, mortgage, tuition, water/sewer, phone, insurance, fuel, and electric bill.  Notice below we have these things as ACH.  These things are automatically withdrawn from our checking account.

For payments which fluctuate such as electric,water, and fuel we looked at the previous three months and took an average when deciding how much to put into that category.

From here, there are several different routes that you can take.  For us, we put a set amount into each category each month.  If you’d like to take a look at our specific categories, I have included them here:

ACH: Auto Insurance
ACH: Bills & Utilities: Security System
ACH: Bills & Utilities: ATT
ACH: Bills & Utilities: Entergy
ACH: Bills & Utilities: Water
ACH: Church Tithe
ACH: Gift Charity: compassion int’s
ACH: Gift Charity: world vision
ACH: Home Mortgage
Tuition & Education
insurance dental and vision
Health Insurance
Food & Household
 Shopping: Clothing
Miscellaneous Expenses
Fuel & Maintenance
Shopping Blow Money
Shopping Blow Money
Home Maintenance

Another way to do a spending plan is that the the “rest” of the money can be used for whatever is the priority for that month.

For instance, we put a set amount into vacation each month.  We could also just look at the remaining amount for 1-2 months and say “This month we are using this for vacation” so the other extras would have to wait.  November and December extra funds could be used for Christmas.

If you’ve never done a budget, I hope that this will help you to have a launching pad to your own.  That’s the great thing about a budget.  It is a personal journey toward your financial freedom.

It takes a bit of time to get going but I have found it to be well worth the effort!

I’ve included several of my favorite websites which discuss budgeting (spending plans 🙂 ) below:

Becoming Minimalist

Money Saving Mom

Dave Ramsey

What about you?  Do you have a budget?  Want to?  Not at all interested?










Ways to Save Money on Vacation

Summer, Holiday, Holidays, Recovery

Ahhh…summer.  That time of year when many travel for summer vacation.

I am very fortunate that summer vacations have been something that I’ve looked forward to every year since I was a kid.  Many of my best memories were made during those trips.  It seemed that every year this time was set aside for my family to reconnect by spending hours together on the road (I’m not sure if all those are fond memories) and experiencing whatever thrill my dad had planned.

It has been important for me to continue that with my kids.  While we don’t do elaborate vacations, we do try to get away together for a short time each summer.

Vacations don’t just pay for themselves though!  They can really be tough on a budget if we’re not careful.  My husband and I have a set amount transferred from our bank account into an savings account each month specifically for vacation.  Otherwise, we might look up in June and realize that we have no money to travel.

While it is vacation and some of the fun is not to pinch every penny, here are some of the ways that we save without feeling like we are scrimping on a good time.

1.   Find a good deal on a hotel.

I shared here about how I saved money by asking for an educator discount.  If this is not applicable to you, then there are other ways to save.  If your dates are flexible, ask for better rates when you call the hotel to make the reservation.  If you make a reservation online, don’t forget to use your Ebates account to get cash back.  If you are willing to do a walk or a drive (think about parking $ though) you may also choose to stay a bit of a distance from the “scene” and pay quite a bit less for a hotel room.  You can read more about my hotel up “the hill” here.

From my personal experience, it is wise to have a hotel booked before you travel.  I have ended up in a few places where I was tempted to sleep with one eye open and would not let my children touch anything.  You don’t know what other activities may be in the area and hotels could be filled….at least the good ones could be ! 😉  If you’re a bit more courageous than I am about that, I’ve heard that you can wait until the day of your arrival and score a great deal on rooms that are left.  The hotel had rather have the room occupied, even at a lower rate.

2. Pack snacks for travel.

By far, this is the biggest way that we save. Avoid convenience store and amusement park prices for snacks!  We made a trip to Costco and bought things that we could easily pack and eat during the drive and throughout the week.  I can’t even begin to calculate how much money this saved us.  We took a cooler in the van and packed it with drinks, string cheese, and fruit so that we had snacks during the drive.  My husband packed a backpack each day with bottled water, juice boxes, fruit roll ups, rice krispie treats, crackers, and other small things that were easy to pack for being out and about.  We had snacks ready when the kids’ moods and sugar levels started to plummet!

3. Look for coupons in a local attraction guide.

You can almost always find coupons and deals in attraction guides.  When you arrive, go to the welcome center and pick up travel brochures.  A quick google online can also leave you with tons of options to save money on the attractions.  Buy 3 slices of fudge and get the 4th free…yes, please!

4. Skip the souvenirs.

This is possibly just my opinion.  One can only have so many pieces of $9.99 junk to drag home and later send to good will.  To be totally honest though, those things did have some appeal when I was a kid.  I mean who doesn’t need a snow globe, gigantic pencil, and paperweight with the city’s name on it?  But now that I’m the adult, I don’t want to spend my money on those things and thankfully my children don’t seem to be attracted to it.  I’ve gotten pretty good at distracting them!

Whatever our budget, I try to use this time to reconnect with my family and not stress over funding it.  If I can do little things to take the financial stress away, I can also come away without a stack of bills.  For me, this makes the trip more enjoyable!

If the budget doesn’t allow actually traveling away from home, then do a stay-cation.  More coming about that soon!

What are your tips for saving while on vacation?  Do you try to save or just forget budgeting altogether for the sake of having a good time?

This post contains my referral links.  You can read my full disclosure here.