Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Date Night--Have one weekly! (Plus Ideas for Cheap Dates)


My husband's co-workers can't get over the fact that we go on a date EVERY week (alternating between at-home and going-out date nights). He gets comments like, "What do you DO week after week?"
Honestly, I understand their confusion because a couple years ago, I would've said the same thing. But since date night has morphed into this new and amazing thing--so different from what our date nights used to be--I don't know how we used to live without it.
My husband and I on a date
My husband and I had a few important realizations that led to making weekly date night a priority:
1. Our spouse is the most important human on the planet. Our relationship with them will affect every other aspect of our happiness, including our children and family as a whole. Our relationship thrives when we set aside time to communicate with each other.
2. We both need to unplug and get stress-free time away from our work, routines, technology, etc.
3. It's too easy to get caught in the thick of thin things and never take time out to evaluate our lives, goals, and dreams. What better time to discuss our "big-picture" plans than with our most trusted friend and advisor?

Why We Go Out

First of all, if doing date night at home is effective (or more affordable) for you, I FULLY support that. Own it. Discuss with your spouse how to make at-home date nights most meaningful.
Personally, I find that my mind and body are able to relax and rejuvenate more effectively when I leave my job site, which happens to be my home.

Budgeting

You know I'm a budgeter. Hard-core. But budgeting is NOT about spending as little as possible on everything, it's about putting your money towards whatever is most important to you and letting other things go. Date Night is a priority for me, so I am willing to give up other things (clothes, home decor, vacations, etc.).

Date Night Ideas

For cheap dates, we use gift cards and/or deal websites. Here's a few of our dates:

Hiking--my personal fav


Bowling (way more fun as a double-date)

Cheesy Arcade

Rock Climbing

For me, the most enjoyable dates are the ones that allow us plenty of time to talk while trying fun, new things together.

Finding a Babysitter

We do babysitting swaps sometimes, but we usually hire a babysitter. If you're new to a major metropolitan area and don't know any babysitters, check out UrbanSitter. Hiring a babysitter online seemed sketchy to me, but we used UrbanSitter last week and had a good experience with both the site and the babysitter. Here's what I liked most:
(1) These babysitters are background-checked AND vetted by other families. You can read reviews about them and/or link your social media accounts to see which babysitters your friends recommend.
(2) You can scroll through a list of babysitters and check out their profiles, including a video of them. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is worth a million.
(3) You can schedule online.
(4) YOU CAN PAY BY CREDIT CARD. As someone who lives for my 2% cash back, this was awesome.
If you're interested in trying out UrbanSitter, they're hooking up our MHM readers with a free month of membership--use the code FORFREETRIAL.

And that, my friends, is why I love date night. 



What's your idea of a perfect date night?
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Choosing the Right Healthcare Plan--Let This Tool Do the Thinking For You

My friend Beth (who also wrote a post about making money as a stay-at-home-mom) has offered to share another brilliant idea with our awesome MHM readers. She, like many of us, was once struggling with health care enrollment season. What kind of coverage did she need? And which plan should she choose? No one can predict what the future holds, but even if you know about how much health care coverage you need, it's hard to tell which plan is the best value for you. Luckily for us, Beth is no ordinary woman--she's a spreadsheet pro. She created a tool for pricing out plans with the same coverage (for comparing apples to apples) and also included some advice about what questions to ask when researching different plans with different coverage (for comparing apples to oranges). I know I'll be coming back to this post whenever I'm choosing a health plan, so feel free to pin this post for later.       - Lisa

Section 1 of 2: COMPARING APPLES TO APPLES

IF YOU'RE COMPARING PLANS WITH THE SAME COVERAGE--USE THIS SPREADSHEET (click image to download):

How it works:

You enter information into the pink boxes ONLY. The rest of the spreadsheet will populate from the information you enter there. Notice the spreadsheet has two tabs: (1) a blank tab and (2) an "example" tab with hypothetical inputs so you can get an idea of how to use the tool.

Once you've entered the information in the pink boxes, the result is a variety of possible medical cost scenarios in a year, from very low cost (a handful of doctor's visits in a year) to higher costs (like the need for some X-rays or something) to much higher, like pregnancy or surgery. You can play around with these assumptions if you want to. 

This spreadsheet is useful for comparing plans that differ SOLELY in terms of costs (monthly premiums, copayments, deductibles, etc.). If plans differ in terms of conditions covered then this won't help you choose between them, but the good news is that plans now seem to be required to cover pretty much the same stuff. People should have a good idea of what they personally need covered so before they buy a plan I would advise everyone make sure to get a detailed plan summary and look for the type of care they need and see what it covers.

The beauty of this thing is that when you're comparing plans that are substantially equal except in terms of cost, you can just plug in the pink box numbers and boom, you know which health plan is actually cheapest. I spent several hours making the spreadsheet earlier this year but my decision process took like 5 minutes.

Also, in my experience, the middle of the road plan is usually the best value. That's the one with the middle premiums and the middle deductibles. It seems to end up being cheaper overall because the low premium plans have higher deductibles (and the amount you save on premiums doesn't often make up for the higher deductible unless you know that you're going to go to the doctor just like once or twice a year) and the high premium plans with the low deductibles are usually so much more a year in premium payments that the lower deductible doesn't do you as much good as you think it might. But it's always good to run all the numbers to be sure.



Section 2 of 2: COMPARING APPLES AND ORANGES

IF YOU'RE COMPARING PLANS WITH DIFFERENT COVERAGE, ASK THESE QUESTIONS:

The spreadsheet is only useful for comparing the cost of plans that are similar in regards to services covered. To determine if plans are comparable, you also need to:

(1) Request details of what the plan covers and what it does not cover. The company may not give you all of this information up-front, but when you read more details you may see that a plan that claims to have a $30 copay for a regular doctor's visit actually has a higher copay for certain other services. Or you may see that the emergency room copay is different or that there is a separate deductible for maternity. Or that the plan covers chiropractic services at the regular $30 copay but limits you to 12 visits a year. Each family should already have some idea of what services are going to be relevant to them, but some things to think about would be the coverage for emergency room, maternity, autism or other child development services, mental health, chiropractic, and prescription services. 

(2) If you take certain prescription drugs regularly (or anticipate needing to take certain drugs in the future, such as if you get pregnant), ask whether the plan covers those specific drugs. It doesn't do much good to buy a plan where prescriptions only cost you $10 if none of the drugs you take are included.


(3) If you are attached to the doctors you currently see, call their offices and ask if they accept an insurance plan you are thinking about buying. When I did that last December I found out that none of our regular doctors were going to accept any of the Marketplace ("Obamacare") plans.

Good luck!

Any questions? Post them in the comments!
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