Thursday, April 9, 2009

Insult to Injury

I got my hair cut today. I tend to keep it pretty short and disheveled (maintenance-free, baby!), so I just go to the cheap-o Great Clips place around the corner where I can get it cut for $8 with a coupon. Usually, my once-a-month visit is quiet, quick, and pleasant. Today, though? Lacking the pleasant part.

Now, I've been going grey for quite some time. Around 17 or 18, I started to notice my first grey hair, and it's been getting steadily worse since then. Now, I'm downright salt-and-pepper. I'm generally okay with that, and it's probably helped my career a bit. I've found that if I keep my hair short and maybe put a little gel in it, it's not nearly as noticeable to most folks. It doesn't hurt that I'm also 6'4", so there aren't a whole lot of people getting a good view of the top of my head on a regular basis.

Today though, it was an issue. The stylist (someone I'd never seen before) and I were chatting as she trimmed my flowing locks (ha!); just the general chit-chat that always occurs. Somehow, we got to a point in the conversation where I mentioned that I had just had a milestone birthday this past Sunday. Here's how that conversation went:

Me: "Yeah, I just had a milestone birthday this past Sunday."

Her: "Oooo, let me guess how old you, forty?"

Me (noticeably peeved, I'm sure): "Yeah, um. Actually, no, I just turned thirty."

Her: "Oh my gosh. I'm really sorry. I didn't mean to..."

Me: "That's okay, I'm starting to get used to...."

Her: "It's just that I saw all that grey hair on the apron and thought....I mean, you're REALLY grey for thirty."

Wow. Gee, thanks, lady. You sure know how to brighten my day.

At least I only paid $8 for the abuse.


Monday, April 6, 2009

Things Are A-Changin' Around the YFNN House...

Our house had some pretty gnarly pine trees at each corner of the house. Likely planted when the house was built (in 1986), they’d grown to over 20 feet tall and were ridiculously close to the house itself. They weren’t even all that attractive. Check out the pictures.

This caused some problems. First, every time the wind blew, the trees would sway a bit and rub against the house siding, or the windows. This always made some noise, usually annoyed us, and occasionally spooked our bossy dog. In addition, they were close enough to the house that their root systems were getting to be a concern for our basement and such. Then, last year, we got bagworms, and despite their manual removal and treatments, they slowly started to kill the trees. So, we decided that the trees had to come out.

Since the tree folks were going to removing at least four pine trees, we also had them remove an additional white pine that was diseased and encroaching on our deck, a large half-dead cherry tree in the center of our back yard (yeah, it was as dumb as it sounds), and a terribly unruly shrub that no matter how much we cut it back decided to take over an entire side of the house, preventing access to the lone outdoor hose spigot.

So, last Tuesday, the tree guys removed it all while I was at work. Apparently it only took a couple of hours and they left no damage and no debris. They did, however, leave the stumps, but those should be ground out shortly.

The next phase of the project includes reseeding certain areas with grass seed, planting new plants (of the placement and type I am unaware, but trust my wife’s judgment entirely), and finishing with mulch and such. That work should commence next week.

Right now though, I’m just looking at some stumps and bare dirt around the house, but I can already see that it’s going to look MUCH improved. The fact that it’s going to be less work, less worry, and give us more usable yard is even better.


ING Savings Rate and Other Ramblings

ING, Debt, and Savings

Well, ING Direct dropped their rate for their Orange Savings Account yet again. This time to 1.490% APY (1.50% APR). So, my money is now working a lot less hard for me than it was before.

Still, it’s way better than my brick and mortar bank’s rate (currently 0.05%), and our emergency fund money is safe there, so I’ll keep slowly piling up money there every week.

Also, with savings account rates so low right now, it’s a great time to pay off debt. Do it, do it, do it. Make sure you keep a bit of a cash cushion in savings, but don’t be afraid to pound out some debt right now.

We don’t currently carry any debt (aside from the house), but my student loans used to be at a fixed rate of 3.375% APR. When ING Direct was giving me 4.5% APY on my savings, it made sense to put money into savings, rather than pay off debt. Essentially, we made more money on interest on the savings than we paid in interest on the loan. Now, even with the student loan interest tax deduction, it makes more sense to pay off the loan.

If you’re on the fence about paying off some debt, DO IT. I can’t tell you how calming it feels not to have worry about car payments, credit cards, or other debt.

Insurance Coverage

In other news, we’ve finally completed the finalization of our bills from the hospital for our most recent trip. The hospital charged the insurance company over $16K for my wife and over $4K for the baby, but thankfully we were responsible for much, much less. It was interesting to see just how inflated the charges from the hospital were and how much they'd actually accept from the insurance company. Examples? You betcha.

My wife's stay: $16,757.40. Insurance paid just $4,261.84. I paid $1,065.46. So, basically the hospital wanted almost $17K, but only got a little over $5K. Ridiculous.

The epidural: $3,280. Insurance paid just $880. I paid $220.

Baby's stay: $4,261.84. Insurance paid just $1,032.24. I paid $258.06.

It's crazy to me that the hospitals are willing to write off so much money (and charge so much to begin with). I know the reasoning behind it all, but I don't want to get into it right now. Suffice it to say, the way we handle insurance is stupid (and no, universal healthcare would make it worse, not better). Maybe that'll be another post some day.

Friends and Food

Since the birth of our son, we’ve had loads of people over to visit and especially to bring us food. Before Baby was born, I kind of poo-pooed the idea of everyone bringing food to us, thinking that I’m still more than capable of putting together a meal for us every night. But, I’ll definitely admit that it’s pretty nice having something in the refrigerator or freezer that just needs to be heated. I wouldn’t have believed it before, but it’s a little difficult sometimes to find 30-45 uninterrupted minutes to put together a nutritious meal. We’ve been very fortunate to have such wonderful friends and family, especially ones that can cook!