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The magic of Hollywood Studios in Florida has come and gone, and the charges on my credit card are now a reality. Here are the financial lessons I learned from our 4 day trip to Florida.
Allegiant Air was wonderful. It was worth driving the hour and parking my car at the airport where Allegiant Air has a terminal. Parking for 4 days was $40, which was ok to me. Since we departed on Sunday evening and returned on Thursday morning, I didn’t want to ask anyone to take the morning off from work to pick us up at the airport.
Shipping my luggage via UPS was not worth it. Since I’m not an experienced flyer, I just assumed shipping my luggage via a carrier would be cheaper than checking the luggage under the plane. Plus, I didn’t want to deal with baggage claim at the airport. That definitely bit me in the ass. Not only did it cost twice as much to ship the luggage down to Florida ($70) than to check it under the plane back to New York ($35), but my negligence also resulted in purchasing boxes for the luggage directly from the UPS store for a whopping $20 rather than anywhere else, bringing the total shipping cost to $90. In addition, baggage claim at St Petersburg – Clearwater Airport was much easier than major airports like LaGuardia or JFK in New York City.
Checking the umbrella stroller and car seat at the gate of the airplane was so convenient. And free. Thank goodness my friends in Florida gave me that tip before we left New York. Bringing those items with us meant that I didn’t have to rent or buy them in Florida. The car seat was needed for the drive between the airport and our friend’s house (2 hours round trip) and our friend’s house and Disney World (4 hours round trip). The stroller was critical at Hollywood Studios for the little one when she didn’t want to walk, which was pretty much the entire time.
Don’t forget the rain gear like we did. Since we went during the tail end of hurricane season, it rained every single day, multiple times a day. While each round lasted less than half an hour, if you got caught in it, you got drenched. The stroller came in handy when we got caught in it once at Hollywood Studios, sprinting from the park to the car. I also spotted beach towels for sale by the exit, but decided against buying one to cover my daughter. We got soaked through our clothes, and even had to turn the heat on in the car to keep from freezing. The other lesson here is wait under shelter for a half an hour, and the rain will stop.
When I first booked the flights in July, I also booked the rental car because of the great deal that was offered, or so I thought. When I called the rental car company to confirm my reservation a few days before we left, the rep confirmed that I paid for the reservation, but not for the taxes, which I would pay when I picked up the keys. And there’s the catch. Then when I checked into the flight 24 hours before departure, I finally noticed the tiny print regarding the rental car taxes.
In addition, when we landed in Florida and picked up the car, the customer service rep presented me with insurance for the rental car. Since I was in an unfamiliar city, in an unfamiliar car, I accepted the insurance, which brought the additional cost of the rental car to $175. I also had to fill the gas tank before I returned the car.
At nearly $100 a person, the most expensive part of the trip was the tickets to Hollywood Studios (we stayed with friends rather than a hotel). Since we only had four days in Florida, we spent only one day in Orlando so that we could spend time as much time with our friends. Plus, I was not keen on spending $300 for the three of us to get into the park more than once. Especially since Lilly tends to shut down in large crowds, and does not like any kind of ride or loud noise whatsoever.
In particular, she was not a fan of the March Of The Storm Troopers with the loud march song blaring over the speakers.
The final financial lesson is to wait a little later into the fall to visit Florida so as not to conflict with hurricane season. It is by pure luck that we didn’t go a few weeks later, during Hurricane Matthew. Plus, the rain might have been less frequent during fall.
The days of an immobile newborn are long gone, replaced by a 4 year old girl that loves to hang off the hand rail at her daycare. One evening in August, as she was hanging from the railing with both hands and feet, I asked her if she wanted to check out any gymnastics schools on the way home, and she replied with an exuberant “Yes!”
Contrary to my “think before you speak persona,” the words just slipped out before I could stop myself. It was mid-August, at the same time as the Rio Summer Olympics, and I was watching diving, swimming, and gymnastics almost every night. I wanted to get her involved in a sport, and it would have been great if it weren’t one of the expensive ones, like dance, swimming, or gymnastics. I, personally, like running (although, I haven’t been as diligent about it these past few months), and all you need to run is a pair of sneakers (and a music player).
But since she was now aware of gymnastics, I quickly looked up schools on the way home. We dropped in around 545pm on a Tuesday evening, when a class of older elementary school kids were running towards a vault and somersaulting off it. She was riveted, and wanted to run around right then. I gently told her that while she couldn’t do it right at that moment, we would look into gymnastics for her.
I found one of the volunteer parents, who told me that the next open house would be in two weeks, on Labor Day weekend. She can play on the equipment and sign up for classes then. The fee is $70 for eight weekly classes, 50 minutes long, plus an annual registration fee of $20, bringing the total cost to $90. It’s also just over a mile from our house.
During the week, I looked up other gymnastics schools in our area to compare prices, and found one in the next town over, with a similar schedule, 1 hour long rather than 50 minutes long. Their tuition is $61 a month, plus an annual fee of $30, totaling $152 for the same eight weeks. Their open house was the weekend before the open house for the first school, so we went to both open houses to check out the facilities and basically get two weeks of free gymnastics. At both open houses, she was hesitant about joining the rest of the kids, but slowly became involved and followed the teachers’ instructions. After the open house at the first school, we decided to send her to that one since it was $62 cheaper ($152 – $90), closer to our house, and she is only a beginner.
I used $7 of the $62 savings to buy a leotard for her (love the summer clearances at Boscovs), to make all the jumping and landing easier. It’s actually a dance leotard, which will come in handy if she wants to try dance later, which I’m secretly hoping not. Those dance costumes are expensive. Even the DIY ones.
At the beginning of 2015, my hubby and I decided to take the risk of going without insurance for the entire year. Since we were both young (enough), healthy (relatively), and our daughter was covered by Child Health Plus, we said screw you to Obamacare. Of course, we had to mess that plan up by getting pregnant. In early fall, we were pregnant and uninsured, which is actually a fairly common scenario. So common, in fact, that a quick search on Google yielded 56.6 million results.
The most common program for uninsured, pregnant women was Medicaid. When I first got Child Health Plus for our daughter, I was told that my income was too high for any Medicaid assistance, which was no surprise to me. But it was just low enough to qualify for Child Health Plus. When I was researching affordable health care as a pregnant, uninsured woman, I found out that the Medicaid income limits were higher for pregnant women.
But of course, I was still above the income limits. (Apparently, the lesson here is if you want health insurance in America, you have to be poor.)
After reading online forums about mommies and babies, I called my Ob-Gyn’s office and asked for their advice. Their billing department suggested I contact the hospital I had my daughter at, because they had a specific clinic that catered to the uninsured, which had an Ob-Gyn office. At first I was a little hesitant, but when they said that my specific Ob-Gyn doctor, whom I loved, worked there a few mornings a week, I was sold.
When I spoke to the financial department at my hospital, it turns out they have a financial assistance program for the uninsured.
After sending in some paperwork and a few paystubs, I was able to get 50% of any medical bill that went through their financial system, which included the Ob-Gyn clinic. The 50% off would even apply after I got insurance through the healthcare exchange in January 2016, which was four months away.
Being the numbers driven person that I am, I asked what the typical prenatal appointments and procedures cost, and started crunching numbers. Drawing back on the prenatal appointments when I was pregnant with my daughter, the first prenatal visit includes an ultrasound ($400), papsmear ($591), and initial bloodwork ($850). Of course, there was also the doctor ($470), and the specialist to analyze the ultrasound and tell the doctor what it showed ($170). The ultrasound specialist is a separate charge from the hospital system, thus not included under the “charity discount”, the nice name the hospital financial department gave my 50% discount on the bill. So, the total for the first prenatal visit should come to $1325.50 (50% of $400+$591+$850+$470, plus the $170 for the radiologist, without any discount), assuming a low risk pregnancy and no complications.
The next two prenatal visits, about 12 weeks and 16 weeks, are $116 each, plus the doctor to listen for the heart beat and ask how I’m feeling, $470 each, making each one $586.00. Taking off the 50% makes each one $293.00.
That brings us to the 20 week mark, halfway through the pregnancy, when it’s time to check for the gender and more blood tests. Since that would have been January 2016, when I would have been able to pick up insurance through the healthcare exchange, I didn’t bother calculating the costs. But the financial department did tell me that a C-section without any complications is around $11,500, which includes the hospital stay and doctor, but not the anesthesia.
The estimated cost for the first three prenatal visits totals $1911.50 ($1325.50 + $293.00 + $293.00).
Compare that to the estimated cost of carrying health insurance for the entire year. When I checked the health care exchange at the end of 2014, the lowest premium was around $350 a month, making the annual cost $4200.00.
Based on those numbers, it was definitely worth the risk of not getting insurance. As long as you don’t have any complications, or end up in the emergency room like I did. I ended up miscarrying, which is not a story for the faint of heart. I had an ambulance ride to the ER, and an overnight stay at the hospital so that I could get a blood transfusion. Good thing I had the 50% charity discount.
My Nike half marathon training came to a screeching halt about two weeks into the new year. Around mid January, I started to feel overly fatigued, and running felt less enjoyable and more like a chore. After a 2 week break from the training regime, I started my new job at a CPA firm on February 1st, right in time for tax season. I was immediately working 50+ hours, 6 days a week. When I did run, it was a mile here, mile there. Or a small workout on the exercise bike.
It’s amazing how fast 6 weeks can speed by when you’re doing tax returns. There’s 6 days until the NYC half marathon, and the mile run I did this past Saturday knocked me out on Sunday (daylight savings time didn’t help, nor did working Sunday morning). I confirmed the hotel room today, and I have my wave and corral group.
I will do the NYC half marathon, even if I have to walk it.
Monday, January 4, 2016
Monday is normally a recovery day, but since I had done very little running in the past 5 days due to a New Years Eve cold, I went to the gym and did 2 miles on the treadmill.
I was expecting to do poorly, but it went satisfactorily.
Tuesday, January 5, 2016
I chose to recover on Tuesday night rather than trying the speed track workout. Usually, when I run after taking a few days off, the first run goes decent, like it did on Monday, but the second run goes terrible.
Wednesday, January 6, 2016
I did Wednesday’s recovery run as scheduled, 2.5 miles at the gym. It went well.
Thursday, January 7, 2016
About halfway through, around 1.5 miles into the tempo run, I noticed the inside arch of my right foot was rubbing against my sneaker, and I cursed myself for forgetting to change my socks to running socks. I really wanted to finish the workout, so I started running on the outside of my right foot, and made it through the remaining 1.5 miles and four, 150m strides. I did get a slight blister.
Friday, January 8, 2016
I enjoyed my night off, and worked on cleaning up my kitchen cabinets.
Saturday, January 9, 2016
I ran two miles at the Vestal Rail Trail. It went as expected.
Sunday, January 10, 2016
I did my six mile endurance run at the Vestal Rail Trail, with my new toy from Christmas, the Garmin Vivofit.
It rained during half of it, which I was prepared for. And while I’ve discovered that running in the rain can be quite liberating, it also makes my feet squishy, which I hate. I also used the same Nike sneakers from Thursday, and I felt the arch of my sneakers against the inside arch of my right foot again. And this time, I was wearing proper socks. I really hope the fact that my sneakers were soaked contributed to that.
Week 4 is over, and on to Week 5. I’m nervous and excited about running 8 miles next Sunday.