Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Bargain Shopping

When Dave and I got married he was 21 and I was 23.  To say we had no money is an understatement.  We, thankfully (oh, so thankfully) stumbled onto a "Good Sense" Money Management class.  So we set up a Spending Plan (aka Budget) and were very diligent about sticking to it, which took some creativity and sacrifice.  We only took out student loans for tuition.  We never used a credit card.  And, we believed in "allowance" -- or basically having your "own" money to do with whatever you wanted without the other asking.  We got $6 each a WEEK.  Hey, that is nearly $50 a month, and for two part-time interns and full time students, that was A LOT of money.  So needless to say, we have somewhat prided ourselves with being bargain shoppers for some time now.

Thankfully, we did eventually graduate from school, get jobs and we continued with a budget.  Our budget really needs readjusted now that my income is variable and we have, um, a kid.  Anyway, we shop around, use lots of coupons and coupon codes, and very much take our time making any big purchase.  We beg, borrow and buy on Craigslist.  When we had Dekker, I poured over the pages of Baby Bargains.  And it was sometime then that it really struck me that you can get the SAME THING barely used for half the price, or never used and uber cheap if you are willing to do your research and a little extra leg-work.  For example, I bought a BOB Jogging Stroller for literally 1/3 the price.  The guy who sold it to us explained that it spent the last two years in his wife's trunk.  Incredible.  We use that thing almost everyday Spring-Fall and it would have been worth it full price, let alone at this price!  Wow.

Okay, well all of this is leading up to Tuesday's events this week. Dekker had a head cold for the last several weeks and when we got home from Detroit I started to really fear that it had spread to his lungs.  He was hacking up yuck when he coughed and wasn't acting like himself.  I called the Dr. office and they confirmed that he needed to be seen at Urgent Care Monday night or in their office Tuesday AM.   The sweet thing was exhausted so I picked Tuesday AM.  Long story short, we visit and the PA decides it's an Upper Respiratory infection and that we need breathing treatments.  He adds that he will fax an order to Alegent Home Health and that they will be contacting me that day.  So I cancel all my appointments for Tuesday (ug!) and basically sit by the phone.  In the mean time I am texting with Dave's sister (a fellow bargain hunter-- more on her below) who says that a breathing machine, Nebulizer, is really easy to use and that she has one I can borrow for the WEEK that they have been ordered. Well, now I know that I can have a machine for the cost of a tank of gas and my wheels started turning...

So Home Health does in fact call and I start asking questions like, "How much does your visit cost?"  (Nothing, weirdly, in case you were wondering.  They only charge for the equipment.)  "How much does the Nebulizer cost?"  Well, they encourage you to buy one (they'll happily bill your insurance the $250) or they can TRY and approve for me to rent one for the MONTH for $40.  Well, by now I was explaining that we have really high deductible insurance ($4K) and that that $250 will come out of my pocket and is there any other options.  I was trying not to sound like a cheap mom who was more interested in saving a buck then making sure her son could breathe.  You know...

So she gives me the number to the Presbyterian Community Outreach, where they have a unit called HELP that loans out used medical equipment.  So I call, and sure enough, they have a Nebulizer for $20 a YEAR.  I call my PA friend, Suzanne, who is a fantastic friend AND doubles as my personal medical adviser (Suz, if you ever find this blog, I love you and hope I NEVER take advantage of you).  I am nearly falling apart on her answering machine, I was tired and overwhelmed with what to do--  Now I KNOW that I can save $230 if I drive to the middle of no-where and get the used one, but is it safe?  She assures me it is, with new tubing and mask, which I picked up when I drove through for the prescription.

On to 85th and Lake I go.  I show up and they are happy to help me and when they turn away I take a stack of business cards and fliers to give everyone I know who works with older adults.  God Bless these people, what an incredible service.  I immediately start to feel guilty.  I can AFFORD the $250 or especially the $40 for the month rental, but I just don't want to pay it.  "What if I'm taking this away from some nice man or woman who genuinely can't afford it."  Just when I'm about to walk out on all this, they bring out two.  I reason that I'm not taking the last one and that it's all but fraudulent for home health to go on billing insurance companies for new ones when all this machine does is push air out.  (But I knew that I was really having an internal struggle when, in the midst of all this self-talk,  they asked for my income on the demographics sheet and I checked "uncertain.")

If I hadn't worked in health care and didn't know enough to ask questions, I am convinced home health would have showed up, billed my insurance, and never even told me of my other options (even renting).  That makes me pretty mad.  I think A LOT of people get taken advantage of this way, including insurance companies.  And I am not saying this is ALL Home Health everywhere.  I even know some home health nurses, God Bless them.  And I can't say for certain what would have happened.  This is just me justifying my actions in my mind.  So I stuck it to them.  I guess.  In one way or another.  And I was resourceful.  Green.  And I will refer to them, I promise.

The machine is working fine, if you're wondering.  It pushes air out real well.  The hard part is trying to get Dekker to sit still long enough to take a full treatment.  I'd rather poke my eye out then sing, read, play with toys and make airplane noises while trying to convince him that the mask waving around by his face is fun.

So I give thanks to my sister-in-law, Becky, for encouraging me to look for a bargain, even in this area.  She didn't make the ethical call to take the machine-- none of this is her fault.  (I did call her from the parking lot to say that now I have 230 more dollars for Vegas.  I was only half joking.)  She is  incredible and gets toilet paper for all but free and laundry detergent for $1 (oh wait, she makes that) and yogurt for $.10.  She follows a fab blog called Chicks Dig Deals and this will be my next step, though right now it seems too hard and every time I see her facebook post about her awesome bargains it makes me anxious.

Well, thanks for helping me get that off my chest.  I hope I don't rot in hell for taking from the Community Outreach... and I am tremendously glad to know about the place for future referrals.  Maybe I'll even use it again for myself.  I guess I will just have to ponder that a little more.  In the mean time, if you have some medical equipment that you don't know what to do with, for the Love, please donate it to these people!

On the journey.



  1. i never think it hurts to hunt out the best bargain. you are not taking advantage of anyone. I need to be much more cautious with our money!

  2. Stef,

    You totally crack me up! Good for you for taking advantage of a bargain!!!

  3. BeckythecheapsisterinlawFebruary 26, 2010 at 11:04 AM

    HAHAHAHAHA!!!!!! You are soooo funny. I remember thinking "oh great, she's already overwhelmed and now I'm making her feel like a loser first time mom for accepting Home Health!" but honestly, I KNEW you were smart enough to figure that thing out. Oh, heavens. Here we come, VEGAS, and we're spending our unused TP budget on YOU!