My $1,000 Optometrist Appointment

I went for my regular 2-year eye check-up last week. I updated my prescription for my contact lenses recently, but I haven’t changed the one in my eyeglasses for nearly 4 years. Sadly, my vision continues to get incrementally worse each year which means that for the past 6 months or so I’ve been squinting to see things at a distance through my glasses. This has been annoying for quite some time, but only recently did it reach the point where I thought, “Ok, I can’t see”.

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I booked an appointment with a new optometrist, and in my exam she informed me I have super dry eyes and am spending too much time on the computer (she asked me how often I take breaks from staring at screens and I responded, “you’re supposed to take breaks??”). I walked out with a new eyeglasses prescription, plus a second prescription for eye drops, a bottle of fish oil supplements, and strict instructions to take breaks from screens every hour, plus I have to wear my glasses for 2 weeks while I use the eyedrops 4x per day. Eek!

I never scrimp when it comes to spending on my health, but even I was surprised by the bill for this visit. Apparently eye exams costs $130 now — I had been thinking they were still $70-$90 for some reason. My prescription eye drops were $70 and the fish oil supplements were another nearly $30. My graduate student health plan reimbursed me $50 (thanks) immediately for the eye exam, but I’m still waiting for my reimbursement for the eye drops (expecting another $50). Because I visited the optometrist on my lunch hour break, I didn’t have time to select a new pair of glasses, but I was told my lenses will cost approximately $450 and then the cost of frames will vary based on what I choose, but I’m expecting another few hundred dollars.

Total costs?

  • Eye exam – $135 (reimbursed $50)

  • Prescription eyedrops – $70 (reimbursed $50)

  • Fish oil supplements – $27

  • Lenses – approximately $450 (will be reimbursed partial or full amount)

  • Frames – undecided, hopefully <$300 (will be reimbursed partial or full amount)

= about $1,000

I’ve been wearing glasses since I was 13 and I don’t think it’s ever cost that much before! I’m hoping to get the full cost of the new lenses & frames covered through a health spending account but I won’t know how much until I make the purchase and submit my receipts. Also, because it will be coming from a health spending account, using these funds up means they can’t be allocated to other healthcare costs later, and since I still need to visit the dentist, I’m wary of bankrupting the account all in one go.

I regularly use Clear Contacts for my contact lens orders, but I’m hesitant about choosing frames without trying them on first. Plus I’m not sure the site offers the super amazing anti-blue-light you-can-probably-see-in-the-dark-and-see-into-the-future lenses that my optometrist sold me on. Because I wear my glasses 3-4x per week for up to 4 or 5 years at a time, I’m willing to spend more if it means getting the most comfortable and functional pair of spectacles available.

Any health costs surprising your bank account lately?

Beat Debt Fatigue: Luxurious Splurges Under $25

A more appropriate title for this post might be “how to cheer yourself up on a student budget”. Living on less is the burden of both the under-earning and the deeply indebted, and we’re miserable about it. With another semester of my MBA starting next month, I’m looking for ways to tighten my budget while still enjoying life. Here is a short list of things you can treat yourself to without breaking the bank!

Luxurious Splurges Under $25

Wine, a new recipe & a movie

Buy a good bottle of wine and rent a film. There’s nothing more relaxing or romantic than a nice evening in. An ok bottle of wine can be had for $15 and you can rent (or watch for free) a movie while trying out a new culinary dish. There are SO MANY RECIPES I don’t try because one or two ingredients is a little pricey (ie. almond flour or an imported cheese), but then I never think to splurge on these things when I have an extra $10 to spend. Now that I’m experimenting with a lot of new recipes, novel ingredients are top of my list for splurge spending.

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by love & lemons lingerie (note: pretty, not frugal.. look for a knock-off)

New underwear

This might be something only women understand, but few things feel as luxurious as spending on lacy underthings. Most lingerie stores offer those “3 for $35″ or “5 for $35″, which means you can update your intimate wardrobe without spending everything in your chequing account.

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ikea hack via craftycrafty

Minor room redecoration or decorating hacks

What can you buy with $25: candles, new curtains, spray paint, garage sale furniture, or plants. Maybe it’s time to finally frame all your photos? If you’ve snapped some cool shots on your iPhone, you can get them printed for cheap directly through iPhoto. I always find small changes go a long way when it comes to giving your surroundings a facelift.

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Stretch!!

Drop-in on a fitness class

You all know I’ve been on a fitness bender for more than 6 months now, and so far it shows no signs of slowing down, so I’m all over trying new fitness classes and programs for cheap. Dropping in on a fitness class will run you about $14 to $18 depending on the gym or studio you choose and the activity you’re opting for. Why not try barre or a spin class? Easy on the wallet and good for your waistline!

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via Pretty Squared — lots of great affordable make-up suggestions!

The travel/sample sets of cosmetics

I give you fair warning: going into Sephora on a budget is definitely a test of your willpower, but I love everything that’s in those little bins in front of the counter where you pay. Usually it’s smaller sizes of my favorite products or ones I’ve wanted to try — including mini bottles of nailpolish, which are my favorite, because who actually makes it through a full bottle of nailpolish? These mini makeups often let me satisfy my urge to spend without being wasteful with money or product.

What are your favorite affordable splurges when you can’t shake the urge to spend but don’t want to sabotage your goals for a shopping spree?

You Don’t Have to Buy What You’re “Supposed” to Buy

There are some things in life you are supposed to buy blindly. Things like one car per adult in your household, a home with more bedrooms than people, and the biggest TV you can afford. Very few people question these purchases before they make them.

And honestly, I don’t see anything wrong with any of these things. However, I do think they should be challenged. I think they should be evaluated with the scrutiny applied to less “necessary” purchases. Then, if you decide you really want them, you should go for it!

The thing is, my husband and I don’t want any of this stuff.

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So we rent a studio apartment with zero bedrooms for two people. We got rid of our only car, leaving us completely reliant on public transportation and walking. And although we won a TV free and clear at the end of last year, we returned it for something we actually needed.

All that said, I’m not claiming to be a frugal goddess who doesn’t own worldly possessions and never spends money.

I probably eat out more than most people in the blogosphere. I buy brand name clothing (although only on sale). I buy craft beer regularly and won’t switch to PBR to save a few bucks. And I think traveling is the bees knees and participate pretty regularly.

What I am saying is that we should all determine what we’re supposed to buy based on our individual needs and preferences. The blogosphere says often enough that we shouldn’t try to keep up with the Joneses, yet many of these people continue to buy the same things the Joneses buy — just a more frugal version of these things. Maybe we could just completely ignore the purchasing norms altogether.

If you want a house, two cars, and an awesome flat screen TV — then that’s what you should buy.

However, if you want something completely different, don’t let anyone make you feel bad or weird for making that choice.

Life is not one-size-fits-all, and the typical script Americans (and Canadians) follow is certainly not for everyone. It’s really not a tragedy if you choose not to get married, have kids, buy a house, buy a car, own a dog, or climb the corporate ladder. Just live your freaking life and buy only that which reflects your interests. None of that other stuff will make you happy, no matter how happy it seems to make your peers.

How does your spending line up with what you’re “supposed” to buy? How does it differ?

Plastiq: welcome convenience or just an easier way to rack up more debt?

I’m probably a little behind the times here, because I just learned about Plastiq a month ago. As you probably guessed, I’m always looking for ways to get more bang for my buck with cash-back, rewards, and discounts. Hoping to get some rewards points, I was looking to charge my tuition to my rewards credit card then pay off the balance with my savings. However, as is pretty typical here, my university doesn’t accept credit cards for tuition payments. For them this is just a cost-savings measure, but I think it does students a favor too since they can’t rack up credit card debt by charging their tuition. Until now.

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Plastiq is a web-based service that let’s you pay for things you can’t normally charge — like tuition, taxes, utilities — with your credit card. 

At first I thought that sounded great. I was going to get my rewards points after all! Until I read the fine print and noticed this:

Plastiq charges a fee of 1.99% - Plastiq FAQ

So if you’re like me and using a 1% cash-back card or my American Express points card, any point-seeking is quickly negated by paying more than you have to for something. To be fair, I don’t think 2% is a big deal — but my summer school tuition was $3,500 and it just didn’t seem reasonable to pay $70 just to charge it to my credit card.

I’ve been in the habit of paying off my credit card bill in full for years now, but I know I’m not the norm. I wonder if facilitating the use of credit cards for big purchases you otherwise had to save or find alternate funding for will just make it to easy to go into credit card debt — and credit card debt is so expensive!

With most credit card interest rates 20%+ in Canada, the last thing you ever want to do is carry a balance — particularly if you’re also paying Plastiq an additional 2% just to use their service.

When’s the last time you paid 122% of the price for something?

I appreciate the convenience Plastiq offers but I couldn’t make myself sign up, because there was no win for me: it just makes things cost more. Maybe if there was some rewards bonus offer or something else, you could make it justified, but as for now I really don’t see any payoff for the user. If anything it just creates more debt.

Have you ever used Plastiq? What are your thoughts on letter people use credit cards for everything?

Jonesing On A Budget Part II

I recently shared my first post on this topic, Jonesing On A Budget Part I: Don’t Downgrade Your Lifestyle, Live It For Free, a few days ago and now I’m happy to present Part II! Here are some more tips to enjoy the champagne life on a beer budget ;)

imgreseBates – Want cash-back for your online purchases? Simply register with eBates and click through to your regular shopping on sites like Amazon, Sephora, and even Enterprise rent-a-car. There’s some overlap between Swagbucks and eBates as far as retailers go, so I usually check both sites before I buy to get the best deal. However, I do find eBates has a lot more options so generally if I’m buying something from any online store other than Amazon, I go through eBates. Depending on the retailer, you can get anywhere from 1% to 7% cash back. eBates will pay out your balance monthly if it’s over $5. They pay via PayPal or cheque (I choose cheque because it’s usually small and it costs $0.50 to transfer a small balance to your bank account on PayPal and I’m just too cheap for that)

Jonesing on a budget: Make all your online purchases with a no-fee, cash-back credit card like the MBNA cash-back card and you’re essentially getting 2% to 10% cash-back on your spending. Furthermore, often eBates will offer coupons on its retailers so you’ll get a discount and the cash back. You’re almost getting paid to shop. Almost.

imgres-1Airmiles – Airmiles is the dying points system but it’s not quite useless yet. I once used my airmiles to get a KitchenAid mixer, but since they introduced an expiry date on their points, it’s unlikely I’ll ever accumulate enough to make a purchase like that again. Instead, I’m all about the little and quick wins when it comes to rewards system: iTunes gift cards. 95 Airmiles will get you $10 in iTunes, and since songs and apps only cost $1, it goes pretty far!

Jonesing on a budget: Airmiles are pain to earn, but if Safeway is your local grocery store you will get 1 Airmile for every $20 spent, plus tons and tons (and tons) of bonus offers. If you want to speed up the process further, go through Airmiles shops. Best I’ve found: discount magazine subscriptions via Rogers magazine service. I ordered my subscription to Women’s Health, and not only do I get the magazine for less than $3/mo, I received 20 bonus Airmiles for signing up. If fitness isn’t your jam, MoneySense magazine is on the list! Note: this only works if you’re already spending $5/mo to get your magazine from the store, otherwise I really doesn’t make sense to spend $36 for 20 airmiles ok?

imagesGroupon – Yes, Groupon still lives. I’d forgotten about this great option until a spa gift card I wanted popped up and I grabbed it. I used to be an avid Groupon user but twice I let purchased Groupons expire and then I had to cut myself off, but now that I’ve found making a plan for something first THEN checking Groupon has resulted in some great savings.

Jonesing on a budget: buy your Groupon for a restaurant (50% off) through Swagbucks (3x the Swagbucks per dollar spent), and make your reservation through Open Table (100 dining points). BAM! Discount, Swagbucks, Dining Points! You are officially a rewards system master!

trendtrunkTrendTrunk – this awesome site is one I found when searching for a way to get my hands on some cheap lululemon. Lulus generally hold up well even secondhand, so I don’t hesitate to buy when I find something cool in my size. TrendTrunk has tons of designer brands available secondhand, and they handle the transaction between you and the seller. This is infinitely preferable to searching for cool clothes on Kijiji or eBay!

Jonesing on a budget: Use trend trunk to sell your secondhand clothes, then go ahead and buy someone else’s pre-loved clothing with the money you make, effectively costing your $0. Designer duds for free – who can say no?

imagesTitan Bingo – there’s probably no way more fun to earn money online than to do so by playing games. There are number of sites out there depending on what you enjoy, but Titan Bingo is one of the best all around sites. Head over to Titan Bingo for more information and to start playing!

Jonesing on a budget: you get a  40 welcome bonus just for signing up! Where most games and hobbies cost you money to get started, it’s nice to begin with a little in the bank =)

Happy frugal living the high life!