Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Let's talk health insurance...

I'm eligible to enroll in health insurance on September 3rd, which is Friday. However, I have two very different options of insurance, both with pros and cons. I was lucky enough to snag a job with insurance after 30 days, and I'll have health, dental, and vision (in addition to whole life and short term disability, but these are paid for by the company). The vision and dental are the same on every plan, but with health...health is a different story.

I have the option of deciding between an HSA and a PPO plan.

HSA stands for Health Savings Account. The plan costs about $300 less a year than a PPO, but there are disadvantages too. First of all, the deductible is $1500 - for just me. When Sean gets added on in January, the deductible will jump to $3000. That's a lot of money that we would need to have saved up for an emergency. The insurance wouldn't cover any doctors appointments, prescriptions, nothing - until that deductible is met. However, we'd also have an HSA account. My employer would contribute $500 ($1000 with Sean added) to the HSA, and I could contribute up to $2550 a year to the account. It's pre-tax, and rolls over year-to-year while gaining interest.

With a PPO, the annual deductible is only $300 ($700 with Sean), and all standard care is covered with a $25 copay. Emergency care bumps the copay to $100, but 80% is covered after that. This is the standard insurance that everyone else thinks of. PPOs have an FSA, which is pre-tax account similar to an HSA account, but the funds don't roll over year to year - this is optional though.

Both of the plans have the same out-of-pocket maximum too ($3000), so that's not much of an issue either.

I'd love to save the money each year and take the HSA plan, but if either of us were to get into a major accident or come down with an illness that requires hospitalization, we'd have to have $3000 ready to go - we're not at a point that we can save that much up. We'd be covered if we got through the first year - but what if don't? Isn't the whole point of health insurance to eliminate the what ifs? If Sean was working, it'd be different - we could easily have those funds. We technically do have those funds with Sean's loans, but those are earmarked for other purposes.

We're considering all of our options here. We don't want to get into heaps of medical debt while having insurance. I think we're going to go with the PPO, at least until we can build some savings and get settled in life. We shall see.

Any thoughts? What works best for you?

Monday, August 30, 2010

Law School - how it's treating us.

Actually, it's not too bad. Seriously.

Sean got his class schedule and the assignments for his first week before school started, and so he read all of the cases and did all of the briefs he was assigned (as far as I understand, a brief is a summary of the case, what he learned from the case, and why it's important to study the case). He went to classes all this week, and since they didn't finish all of the information, he's still about half a week to a week ahead in all of his classes. Conveniently, that meant no homework this weekend (which is nice, since we haven't seen each other this week).

Sean loves to read and research, so this method of schooling is really right up his alley. He loves it. He always has something to talk about, and he's just so excited about things again. Even though there might be more work to do, he's happier and less stressed. Hopefully he doesn't get too comfortable - he knows that this semester means everything in terms of his future - he'll have the same general teachers all 3 years, and let's just say law professors are much less...equitable. If they don't like you, you know it, and your grades will know it. Ah the joys of higher education.

Here's to 1 week down...95 to go.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

And they're off to be printed!!

I've sent the email. My invites are in printing mode.

Sean's cousin Jen owns a printing company, and graciously offered to print any design I came up with for cost. I had been planning to design my own anyway (did you know that the average cost for a design suite PDF - one that you still have to pay for printing - is $125?), and this just ended my stress of printing on my dinky little printer, or dealing with Kinkos.

There are 4 components to my printing - the main invite, the reception card, the map card, and the 2 sided RSVP postcard. We're getting linen paper (which I think will look awesome next to the metallic pocketfold), so we opted for flat printing. All of this for less than $1 per invite. My goal is to spend less than $3 per invite, and so far I'm at around $1.15 with the pocketfolds. We'll have to add in ribbon, envelopes, liners, and postage still, but I'm thinking I can do it. In fact, I might even be able to keep it below $2.50.

The inserts will be done in about a week, but I'll have to wait until I see Sean's parents next. We're opting to have Jen drop them off there to cut out some shipping costs.

The design is something that I definitely made concessions with Sean for. While I love them, I'd prefer something much more modern. He's more traditional. But, I love them nonetheless, and the pocketfolds will make them even more perfect.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Church Success!!

We found a church. Thank God.

We were really starting to get discouraged. All the churches we had been to were old and boring. Sean and I, despite popular belief, are not old and boring. We needed a church with young people. Having just moved here, we wanted a young adults group where we could meet people and have things to do. Church groups are perfect for this kind of thing. We had found a church that sounded perfect to us, but it was up by our current apartment - when we decided to move, we realized our new church needed to be closer to our new (and hopefully long lasting) home. We were really starting to worry that we weren't going to find a good church.

We started searching with the churches closest to us. The first church was okay, but not perfect. The second was awful (complete with draperies hanging off the pulpit). This was our third search. It was actually the first one that tipped us here - the bullentin kept mentioning events, but they were all held at St. Mark's. So we decided to go to the heart of the action. And we fell in love.

We knew pulling up. The people in the cars on either side of us were young adults. It was a huge church. And the church was full. People just kept coming. The priest cracked jokes the entire time, and everyone was involved. There are people of every age - it was just awesome.

It's a little farther away than we wanted - it's actually in Independence, rather than KC. But it's only about 15 minutes away from our new place, which is perfectly fine. We're going to the Saturday night mass next weekend, as that's the mass we'll be regularly going to. If it's anything like the 11:30 am mass on Sunday, we'll be here for sure.

Sunday, August 22, 2010


I am a terrible budgeter. Really, I am.

I am a fantastic saver, and I'm really go at saying "we can't afford that." But when it comes to spending, once I tell myself I can spend money, I have a tendency to go hog wild.

I'm also terrible at keeping track of what I have spent. Do I know how much I've spent on wedding invites? Nope. Do I know how much I've spent on bridesmaids gifts? Uh-uh. Wedding things in general? That would be a negative. Honestly, the only part of the wedding I've budgeted has been things that our parents are paying for and that we absolutely need. I know exactly how much the reception/catering is, how much the flowers are, how much the photography is, etc. I've consciously shopped around (except for the flowers - I let Mama Byrne go where she wanted, cause I didn't have much of a preference and she was paying for them).

I don't want to think about my invites or maids gifts, mostly because I know what I want. I know exatly what I want to have, and damnit I'm going to have it. One thing that does help though, is knowing how much I'm spending per person. Like today...I found an awesome deal on something I really wanted for my girls, but had all but given up on. Just by wandering into an Old Navy Outlet - I spent $60, but it works out to $7.50 a girl (including Shanon and me!). Score!

Maybe I'll start getting better. I need to start paying attention to my bank account more I guess. Ah well...maybe one day :p

Saturday, August 21, 2010

#47. Get our own cell phone plan

My first check for my 101 in 1001!

Sean and I got our own cell phone plan today. With my new job, I have a 22% discount with Sprint (plus no activation fees), and Sean has been in a real need for a reliable phone and a PDA for law school. Plus, with both of us making new friends and contacts, it made sense to do the switch now.

We got fantastic new Evos.

It kind of makes me sad to leave the 636, but since Sean was 314, it didn't make sense for us to keep our old numbers. What (soon-to-be) married couple has different area codes? We're now apart of the 816 club. It also marks that last piece that was tying me to my parents, financially-speaking. While it makes things a bit tight, I love the feeling of financial freedom. We budgeted $150 for the phone plan, but it comes in waaay cheaper than that with my discount and isn't going to be as financially straining as we thought. Hopefully a car-refinance for me will help the budget too (maybe enough to cover the phone plan?! probably wishful thinking). That will happen sometime next month I believe.

I've already order a cute little cell phone cover - in argyle! I can't wait til it comes in. My phone is naked right now - and I'm terrified of dropping my Evo until it's well protected. 

And now, I leave you with a glory shot:

Does anyone have an Evo? What are your favorite apps? Any useful tricks that I should know about?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Loans loans loans!

Sean's loans came in!! Huzzah!!

I hate that I'm this excited about this, and I really wish we weren't relying on them. Actually, we're not relying on them. We can officially live on my income alone. However, we had to put a few things on the credit cards (um, like Sean's new laptop for school) until the loans came in, so now we can pay those off. Aaaaand get shiny new Evos. Which we could do...next month, but why wait if we have the money now? We'll save my paychecks instead :) I also need to figure out how to refinance my car loan with another bank. Can I just go to US Bank and say I want to refinance my 5/3 Bank loan? I'm not sure how that works exactly. If I can put a couple grand down on the loan, I'm sure I could refinance my loan enough to make the payments muuuch lower.

The goal of the next 3 years is to live entirely on my salary, and any extra loan/grant money that Sean gets goes straight to savings (and maybe a bit towards a honeymoon...). If we can live on my salary when Sean graduates as well, we can have all of our loans paid off in just a few years. Changing finances from one person to two is so different. I feel like our money is in a thousand different places, and the OCD part of me is really bugged by this. I really need to work on simplifying it all. Once we get our individual accounts shut down, it'll be much easier, but we need to wait until we have our joint car insurance - which won't be until February or so. Bah. Thankfully, that's the only bill that's coming out of my solo account now (minus checks - I really need to order some for our joint account), so it shouldn't be too difficult.

Sometimes I hate being the financially-savvy one of the relationship - but I know it has to be done :)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Day Zero: 101 in 1,001

The Day Zero Project

When all is said and done, life comes down to one simple statement: This is what I've done. Every person has different goals in life, and different things they wish to accomplish. What is important to one person is not necessarily important to another, and vice versa. I've noticed it a lot this past year, especially is reference to some of my friends. We have different goals in life - not good, not bad, just different.

In any case, everyone has different goals. Some people don't complete their goals, or even realize their goals, until very late in life. Soem people never do. And yes, our goals change on a regular basis. Some are small and easy to undertake, while others are large and overbearing. I have a terrible habit of seeing things as small and insignificant, unless I am actually determined to complete them. This, in turn, brings in my "project." Today, day zero, marks the first day of law school for Sean. As he begins this long journey, I will be beginning one of my own. They will nearly parallel each other in length, which is incredibly challenging.

I've seen this project around on the blogosphere for quite awhile now (before I even had a blogger of my own!). It's about creating goals and sticking to them. I've seen it done on Heather Drive and Good Food, Good Friends, Good Life. I've been taking a lot of inspiration from these blogs, and this challenge is no different. There are 101 tasks, to be completed in 1,001 days (which is roughly 2 3/4 years). And I'm doing it.

The Challenge:
Complete 101 preset tasks in a period of 1,001 days.

The Criteria:
Tasks must be specific (ie, no ambiguity in the wording) with a result that is either measurable or clearly defined. Tasks must also be realistic and stretching - they have to represent some amount of work.

Why 1001 Days?
Many people have created to-do lists in the past - usually they are simple challenges such as New Year's Resolutions or a "Bucket List." The key to beating procrastination is to set a deadline that is realistic. 1001 days is a better period of time, because it allows you several seasons to complete the task, which is better for organizing and timing some tasks such as overseas trips, study semesters, and outdoor activities.

My Own Criteria:
1. I reserve the right to change these goals as life goes on. The project is nearly 3 years, and life is going to change for me. I want to be able to have meaningful goals the entire way through, not just at the beginning.
2. I will donate $5 to charity for each task I fail to complete.
3. I'll blog about each task once I've completed it, and link it up to this original post (hopefully)
4. The challenge will go from August 18th, 2010 to May 15th, 2013.

My 101 in 1001

For me:
  1. Upgrade my camera 
  2. Make a t-shirt quilt from my high school t-shirts
  3. Buy a new Mac
  4. Watch a sunrise (I start work at 5:30 am - I see it every day now!)
  5. Transform my wardrobe from "college girl" to "adult world" (I have hardly any t-shirts now!)
  6. Try 20 new restaurants (20/20)
  7. Take a cooking class
  8. Take an art class
  9. Complete 30 Days of Thanks
  10. Read 50 books (34/50)
  11. Answer the "50 Questions that will free your mind"
  12. Complete the Day in the Life project (one photo, every hour)
  13. Send a future email - for me to get on my wedding day 
  14. Design a new blog header
  15. Take a trip outside of the United States
  16. Learn how to shoot a gun
  17. Switch to reusable grocery bags
  18. Detail my car
  19. Buy a pair of designer heels
  20. Fly first class (okay, it was Economy Comfort, but I count it)
  21. Purchase something from Etsy (our cake topper!)
For my body:

   22.  Join a gym
   23.  Run a 5k (I walked it!)

   24.  Complete both the Two Hundred Squats and the Two Hundred Sit-Ups programs (0/2)
   25.  Learn how to make at least 10 healthy meals (10/10)
   26.  Learn how to eat (and like) 5 new vegetables (4/5) (spinach, peas, carrots, lima beans, zucchini)
   27.  Buy a bike (This one!)
   28.  Take a Bikram yoga class
   29.  Buy new tennis shoes
   30.  Get something waxed (anything!) I'm now a firm believer in eyebrow waxing...
   31.  Learn to snowboard (I did! And broke my wrist...)
   32.  Try a Netti Pot
   33.  Take a walk with Sean twice a week for a month (uh, we got a dog)

For my soul:

   34. Go to church, at least 3 times a month (32/33)
   35.  Find a new church  (8/23/10)

   36.  Find a positive thing about a severely negative situation
   37.  Have a night out, with someone other than Sean, at least once a month (32/33)
   38.  Send a secret to postsecret.com
   39.  Join a church group/young adult group/women's group

For us:

   40.  Get married (1/8/11)
   41.  Have a date night once a month (32/33)
   42.  Take a vacation together - other than our honeymoon
   43.  Adopt a Dog
   44.  Go out to eat - just for dessert
   45.  Go to a bed & breakfast for a weekend
   46.  Change my name & update my address on everything
   47.  Get our own cell phone plan (8/21/10)

For others:

   48.  Donate to Locks of Love
   49.  Go through my closet at least once a year and donate clothes (2/3)
   50.  Do Habitat for Humanity (again)
   51.  Pay for someone behind me in the drive-thru
   52.  Send a care package to a soldier
   53.  Create a birthday calendar for family and friends
   54.  Send a card to everyone on my birthday calendar
   55.  Organize an address book for family and friends
   56.  Adopt/foster a kitten from a shelter (9/29/10)
   57.  Participate in Relay for Life (or other walk for a cause)
   58.  Register to become a bone marrow donor
   59.  Give a meal to a homeless person
   60.  Send out thank-you notes for our wedding
   61.  Adopt a family at Christmas

For my home:

   62.  Once we move (again), unpack everything
   63.  Refinish our china cabinet
   64.  Save at least $100 (preferably $250) each month for a house
   65.  Create an entertainment center that's functional
   66.  Re-back my couch (actually, we just bought a new one. Same diff.)
   67.  Create a clean, workable desk space (But I still prefer the couch)

   68.  Make a recipe book
   69.  Make my own taco seasoning
   70.  Complete a jigsaw puzzle - and frame it
   71.  Start a travel map
   72.  Learn how to make "Byrne chili"
   73.  Frame our posters - or throw them away (to the trash they went!)
   74.  Learn how to make weekly meal plans and stick to them for one month
   75.  Create matching bedside tables
   76.  Use every wedding gift at least once during our first year of marriage

For my wallet:

   77.  Live credit card debt free
   78.  Maintain a savings account with at least 3 months of expenses
   79.  Attend 5 free events (5/5)
   80.  Refinance my car OR payoff my car loan
   81.  Get rid of cable
   82.  Get a promotion or a better job
   83.  Organize all the dates that bills are due, so they only happen twice a month
   84.  Sell old video games that we no longer play (we made $50!)

For my past:

   85.  Celebrate my birthday, on my birthday
   86.  Participate in Marching Mizzou Alumni Band

For fun:

   87.  Take a vacation to a state park
   88.  Go to a drive-in movie
   89.  Pick berries
   90. Take a vacation somewhere new (Richmond, VA!)
   91.  Go on a wine tour
   92.  Get a postcard from all 50 states
   93.  Do 10 local activities (10/10)
   94.  Go to a Royals-Cardinals baseball game
   95.  Go to a murder mystery dinner
   96.  Go to a ballet (okay, I went to KA, Cirque du Solei, but I think anyone who has seen it can attest to its awesomeness)
   97.  Go to an opera
   98.  Go zip-lining
   99.  Attend a trivia night
   100.  Learn to golf

Finally (I can't believe I'm writing this down), something that seems so far away in the future. However, it's absolutely feasible and even likely to happen...
   101.  Get pregnant

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Update on life!

I've been a terrible blogger. Seriously. But, I like to claim that I've been super busy, and use that as an excuse :) So what's been going on with me?

- I'm working 40 hours a week at one job. I went on the phones for the first time on Friday night, and seriously considered my ability to handle this job. It's extremely stressful. But, Monday night was a whole different story. My nerves held steady, and I have confidence that I'll do just fine. What a relief!

- I'm trying to get wedding things done. Trying. But working at night is really throwing me off. I can't for the life of me be productive in the mornings - thank god I'm switching to days in September. Plus, Sean and I are taking full advantage of our last few days before school starts, and he just can't be there for some of the wedding planning stuff. It makes me miss my girls, and I wish we had taken more time to do wedding stuff...but everyone was always busy.

- Sean starts school on Thursday. He's already done reading and is working on briefs for classes. At least he's not whining about how bored he was when I first started work :p

- Our fridge and pantry finally looks like someone lives here. It's not just a gallon of milk and a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter...not that we lived like that at all...

- We're making friends! Or rather, rekindling friendships. We hung out with Beth and Dan on Saturday, and Kevin and his friend Virginia that night.

Other than that, not much else is happening around here. We found a crappy mexican restaurant, and an italian restaurant drive-thru (yup, it's attached to a carwash). Things are definitely strange here in KC...it's very different. But life? It's going just fine.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Officially Employed!!

I started work last night at my new job. I think I'm really going to like it. It's a security services call-center, which is really cool. I get to save lives. The company only promotes from within, so I've also got a really good chance of moving up in the company. I'd love to work my way up to "Custom" (which is security for celebrites - like Betty White, Paris Hilton, and the Obama's Chicago home, no joke), or HR. I think the place has real potential. I'm training weeknights from 3:30 pm - midnight, but after August I'll be working 7 am - 3:30 pm, Sunday through Thursday. We shall see!

But the best part of the job? The benefits. It has amazing benefits. I'll have health insurance, including dental and vision, and, after I'm employed for a year, I'll have maternity too (while it's not so much of an issue now, it will be one day). They'll reimburse school tuition up to $7,500 a year, which means I can get a masters degree (for free!). I'll also get gym membership discounts (in addition to the one they have at the facility), discounts on new cars (not that we'll need one for a while), cell phone plan discounts, a 401k, life insurance, and monthly bonuses. I think I can handle that ;)

Though, I must say, it sucks that I'm signing up for all of this stuff, and I'm going to have to turn right around and change it all in 5 months when we get married. Ah well. Such is life. Luckily though, I'll be able to support us with just my paycheck. It'll be really nice to not have to take out extra loans for Sean's schooling.

I'm just glad to be productive. And out of the house. I was getting cabin fever. 

Monday, August 2, 2010

Wedding Checks!!

I've been kicking myself into gear doing wedding things this past week. Here's a short little post about what I've done!

1. Finished my pocketfolds. I have 105 done, which is exactly how many we need as of right now. One section of our guestlist (our parents' friends/friends of the family) is constantly changing. Right now, it represents the last 10 invites. I still may need to make a few more, but most of them are done!

2. Finished my bridesmaids' necklaces. I'm soo excited about this one too. I want all the girls to wear the same jewelry (as they all have different dresses), but I'd like to think that I'm being realistic in that I'm not expecting them to wear them more than once. The jewelry is pretty formal, but I still think it's gorgeous. And by making it myself, it means I can get them more things! I do need to find them some jewelry boxes though.

3. Booked an organist. Our church requires that we use their musicians, which isn't too big of a deal. They're pretty low cost anyways. I still haven't gotten in touch with our singer, but the organist is secured.

Next steps: head table runner, DJ, order invites (other than the pocketfolds!), and unity candle.

Oh. And ceremony things. Like the order...we have our music picked out, but we definitely need to hone in on our readings...and our vows. We're planning on using standard vows, but there's still 3 options! We also need to figure out people. We'll need 2 readers, 2-3 Eucharistic ministers, and 2-3 gift bearers.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Valedictorian Who Was Against Schooling

The following speech was delivered by top of the class student Erica Goldson during the graduation ceremony at Coxsackie-Athens High School on June 25, 2010:

In this article, Erica talks about how she did not learn how to think in high school, but rather, how she learned how to repeat what was given to her. She learned to regurgitate - she was the top of her class because she was the best at repeating things. I couldn't agree more with my high school experience. We were taught how to take tests, but we were never taught to challenge things, to contemplate ideas, or even to create things. Even the most creative-based classes still had a framework around them.

And then I got to college. My freshman year, I struggled. I took honors classes that my GPA said I was worthy of, but I had to fight hard for those grades. I wasn't taking classes that wanted me to fill out a multiple choice test with answers. I had teachers that asked me why I thought something. Why is Voltaire considered a great writer? Why are people afraid of new technology and ideas? They seem like pretty standard questions - but there are so many different options. Where in high school I was told that there is a frame that all correct answers should fall in, college challenged me to think outside the box. A monotone, textbook answer would only grant me a C, or maybe a B- in this new world of mine. I had to go above and beyond.

College opened a world of new experiences to me, and created ideas that I never thought were possible. I learned how to create my own thoughts. I learned that challenging my religion, while some would argue against, really only solidified my beliefs. And believe me, I challenged - those religious studies classes, especially the ones that focused on other religions, really grounded the world for me (and it's amazing how much you can learn about a culture from their religion). I learned that immaturity only creates the ability to mature, and that without arguments, you can never truly learn your position. I learned that a research paper in which you present no new ideas or analysis is just a summary. 

When I enrolled in my first communications class, I hated how there were no boundaries. But creativity blossoms when the lines are erased. I now love and appreciate that I was pushed to expand past my comfort zones. It frustrated me so much the first year or two of classes, but now, I'm so grateful for the opportunity.

My degree is more than just my grades. It is my friendships, my arguments, and my laughter. It is my perseverance, my sweat, and certainly my tears. It is my frustration, and my ability to work through that frustration. It is my discovery, my creativity, and my adaptation.

It is everything I strive to be, and everything that I have the potential to become.