My Thanksgiving and Black Friday Plans

My parents came over from Ireland in the 60’s, so there were many things that we as children enjoyed with a twist as first generation Americans. One of those events was Thanksgiving. I clearly remember my mother telling me when I was in grade school that she didn’t understand the Thanksgiving tradition, back home in Ireland, they were just thankful they had anything. It was mostly a disruption to their everyday life. While the parents of my friends extolled their long held family traditions, passed down from generation to generation, we had to build our own, because no one in our family had ever celebrated the holiday before.

cranberry-sauce-from-a-can

From the Cavender Brothers

Some traditions, my mother pulled from the images she saw on TV. Cranberry sauce seems to be one of these, as we never had cranberry sauce on any other day of the year. In almost a perfunctory manner, my mother would get the can opener, open up obligatory can, and slap it’s contents on a plate. The ultimate leftovers queen, she wouldn’t even save what was left behind, which was a lot. I hate cranberry sauce. Really, I’ve never tried it.

I tend to shy away from foods that have a squishy texture, and this looked as unappetizing as you could get. There really is no excuse for this shameless lack of knowledge. I live in a area filled with cranberry bogs. Therefore, my first goal of this Thanksgiving,

Make homemade cranberry sauce

It has been my experience that foods I don’t like, have been ill-prepared on my first tasting. The first time I had venison, it was made by a lady that loved salt and used it with abandon. The result was a boiled salty meat that was as unappealing in taste as it was to look at. I came upon this revelation when I ate some brussel sprouts at a fancy restaurant. When I first had them (probably at a friends house), they were too hard, and tasted like boiled leaves. But the creation I had at the restaurant showed me that brussel sprouts could be delicious.

When I discussed our Thanksgiving menu with my husband and he mentioned cranberry sauce, I knew it was time for me to confront the jellied mass from my childhood.

I’ve decided to use a recipe from the Cavender brothers, posted to their blog last year. It calls for 6 simple ingredients; honey, apple, lime, agave syrup, orange juice, and of course, cranberries. Do you make your own? What is your recipe? Include it in the comments below.

Other than that, we will have the same menu as last year, including turkey, mash, green bean casserole, and dinner rolls. We like to keep it simple.

There will most likely be a family walk after dinner and football watching. Hopefully, there will be so much gratitude flowing, that someone will do the dishes!

And if I find myself less than thankful to live in a house full of rambunctious boys, I have been given an open invitation to sleep over at my Mom’s house (Thanks Mom!). This is because the plan is for herself, my sister and I to get up super early Friday morning and

Go Black Friday shopping

One American tradition my Irish mother has fully embraced is Black Friday shopping. Ever the savings glutton, it has long been her standard Thanksgiving evening activity to gather all the sale papers and plan out how she could save the most money.

I have tagged along in the past, usually just ferrying their packages from the store to the car and in general be helpful.
This year though, I have long Christmas list, no longer filled with toys, but electronics. Since Black Friday can be a great time to buy electronics, I am doing my homework this year.

Tip #1 The first weapon in my cash savings arsenal is gift cards. I have purchased discounted gift cards from websites such as Raise.com and traded in my Verizon Smart Rewards points to get more discounted gift cards. Using these gift cards is like getting an extra 10% your total purchase. The best part is that unlike coupons, nothing is excluded. You can get 10% or more off clearance items, luxury items, electronics, and beauty products.

Tip #2 Another tools for the savings-crazed are credit cards with cash back rewards. There are many cards out there, but everyone should have at least one that offers straight cash back. I won’t delve into the card details here, you know which one you have that offers the best rewards. I have the card all paid off, and ready to go.

This year, it is a little nerve-racking using credit because we have just sworn off credit cards a couple of months ago when we enacted our debt reduction plan. This can be a slippery slope, like the alcoholic that decides to just have one drink at the office party. If this worries you too, do what I will be doing, paying the balance of the card that day. So, whatever I pay on Friday, for my great deals, Friday evening, I will be sitting down to tally the cost, and send that payment to my credit card company.

Tip #3 I could never master my Mom’s skill of remembering the prices of everything on her list. She really is impressive, she would kill it on ‘Price is Right’. So, as we tend to do in these modern times, I got an app for that.

I use Flipp on my iPhone to keep track of all the sale papers for my area. The app also has a coupons section which matches up available coupons to sales in your area. Plus, when I see something at a store and wonder what the price is at a competitor’s store, I can just look at their sales ad on my phone. This also comes in handy for stores that have price matching.

Do you shop Black Friday? what are your tried and true methods? Please share them in the comments below.

So, there I will be, fattened and broke on Saturday morning. Which leads me to my final goal for this holiday week,

Rock my high school reunion

There really is not a good time to meet up with people you haven’t seen in years, but fitting into a cocktail dress immediately after Thanksgiving is not an ideal situation. Plus, since I’m trying to save so much money on Friday, it doesn’t make sense to blow my hard earned savings on a dress I’ll hardly ever wear. So, I’ll just wear the black dress I have in my closet for funerals and spice it up with some color.

My focus has been on having some fabulous makeup for the event, as I didn’t wear makeup in high school at all, I think the contrast will be enough to fool some people into thinking I’ve really made it.

I could feel the pressure start to build, knowing that some of my old classmates are important business people in Boston and New York. Going to cocktails is a Tuesday evening for them. Gladly, I got in touch with some of my old friends this weekend, and found they too are nail-biting over baby weight that is still hanging around, and a lack of sophistication in their post-natal wardrobe. I gave this advice “Wear something you are comfortable in, rather than the latest style that makes you squirm. You’ll shine more when you are comfortable and have more fun.”

So, I’ll take my own advice, wear something comfortable and enjoy the time with my old friends. But I will absolutely strive to get the best smokey eye I can get!

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The hot mama look

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

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Taking Care of YOU – Health Scare

I don’t take care of myself. It isn’t a priority to me. As I type that out, it really looks like crazy talk. Who says that? “My health is not a priority.” Everyone knows that you aren’t supposed to own up to that. But in fact, the first step to making your health a priority, is to acknowledge where your efforts to stay healthy stand.

If you must quickly decide your first three priorities, what would they be? You have 30 seconds to decide. Go!

  1. Children
  2. Husband
  3. Job

That’s what I came up with, did you notice anything missing? I am not even in my top three!?

I love being a Mom, I think I’ve made that clear. I love my husband, and everyone knows you have to put effort into a good relationship. I love my job, I am good at what I do, and it gives me purpose, but also, I just need my job. We have kids to feed!

I don’t just need to move myself up on my priority list, I have to. This is a cautionary tale of what can happen, if you choose to ignore your health for too long.

Quick background, I was athletic as a kid and teenager. I carried a little extra weight when I was young. My mother had an aversion to vegetables, and loved things like Shake&Bake and Hamburger Helper.

Senior Prom 95

All dressed up for my Senior Prom

I didn’t start eating properly until high school. I thought I was so fat. I would make my own dinner of steamed vegetables and whole grain rice and turn my nose up at my mother’s roast beef and potatoes – a staple in my diet my whole life. My health was a priority then. In fact, all my priorities back then had to do with … ME.

The girl in this picture had a different top 3 priorities, namely getting fit, making money and picking the right college. Me, me, me.

And that seems to be the nature of young people. Even the high school students I meet as part of my brother’s memorial scholarship fund hold community service as a resume builder. The school district had made it policy that the students must complete 30 hours of community service in order to be eligible for graduation. And as young people tend to do, status was awarded to those that volunteered at the chicest charity.

But, I digress.

I’m not young anymore, and I don’t prioritize my health, and that seems to be the status of too many moms. If you follow my blog, you know that an x-ray recently showed a small tumor on my right femur. Doing his due diligence, my doctor promptly ordered an MRI, but told me not to worry, it was most probably benign and it was very small.

I haven’t received the official doctor’s reading of the images, but I am not happy with what I saw on the MRI. Yes, I am such a smarty pants that I requested to have the MRI saved to a CD, so I could look at it at my leisure, Google bone tumors, self diagnose and generally drive myself crazy.

Small bone tumor on right femur

The bullseye in the middle of the picture is a small bone tumor on my right femur.

Due to an error on the MRI order, the technicians at the hospital decided better to be safe than sorry and scanned both legs. I am so thankful for whatever error caused them to make that decision. I do have a small tumor on my right femur, as seen in the image on the left. I don’t know what it is. I’m not a doctor, but from what I’ve gathered, it’s kind of a little growth on the outer part of your bone, like a barnacle on a boat.

I could be completely wrong.

But I had to look through all the images closely to find that small anomaly. It’s strange to imagine this small bone blemish, being in close proximity to my knee, happened to show up on my knee x-ray. Because it did, I happened across this:

Left femur tumor

My left femur with a scary looking tumor.

A scary looking thing on my left femur. What is that!?

It was the first thing that took my notice when I opened up the pictures on the disc on my laptop at home. How lucky was I that they even scanned my left leg?

I spent a whole day looking up MRI images of femurs to try to figure out what it is. I stopped. It was making me sad and scared. I will speak to my doctor about it at my appointment next week.

The second thing I noticed while I looked at my MRI was not the related to tumors at all. I think it is a much more telling factor in my overall health though. Look at all that fat!

Cross section of my meaty thighs, ugh.

Cross section of my meaty thighs, ugh.

When did that happen!? For those of you unfamiliar with these types of images, the white stuff is fat, the darker area is muscle, and in the middle, are my bones. My fat doesn’t even totally fit on the screen.

I can’t stop looking at it, how it has found it’s way into my leg muscle, how hard it must be for my wimpy small muscles to lug that extra weight around and how unhealthy I know it is for me.

This can happen too easily, if you don’t keep yourself as a priority.

I continued to workout after college. I continued to work out at gyms into my 30’s. So where did I go wrong?

In 2011, I was in a terrible car accident.

My poor Corolla, RIP

My poor Corolla, RIP 2010 – 2011

The lady in the White Trailblazer was texting instead of driving, and struck my little and stationary Corolla at over 40 M.P.H. It resulted in many injuries, including a disc herniation in my neck. I could barely walk, let alone work out. My new routine consisted of flexing my neck muscles. The rest of me got very little use. The next year, my brother died, and I became terribly depressed. I became pregnant in 2013, and used it as an excuse to eat way too much. When the baby came in 2014, I wasn’t even doing my physical therapy anymore, and just took naps in the middle of the day with my little one. Now, it’s 2015, and my knees are killing me!

It is important to process and recover from setbacks, like the ones I had. I was off work for nearly 2 months with the car accident, and nearly 4 months in 2014 on maternity leave. Looking back, I wish I had made myself more of a priority. I became swept up with the idea that I would lose my job, and so started putting in longer hours and eating lunch at my desk. This led to exhaustion which caused me to wake up late nearly every day, and skip my breakfast. Somewhere amongst all this, I forgot that in order to give people the best of you, you must be at your best.

Now, I’m past the time of needing to make a change. I have to make a change. If things stay the way they are, my kids will have to take care of their mummy, and that is not what I want for them. No one ever wants to burden their kids.

No waiting for New Year’s resolutions or cheating at holiday parties, I need to move more and eat less. Any favorite tips you have, things that worked for you? Help get off on the right foot, by leaving helpful comments below. Thanks!

Just Say YES!

To keep your sanity, just say NO YES!!

There are many sources of advice on how to say “No.” An internet search will pull up many tips and hints on how to say no to people to lower your stress and increase your productivity. I’m going to tell you the opposite – just say YES!

With the myriad of things each day we have to do, choose to do or do because we finally have two minutes of down time, it is important to limit how thin you spread yourself. Only, that isn’t what people are doing. We end up saying no to family time and yes to more work.

I’m not economy expert, but I can see people happy to still have a job, while they watched coworkers laid off or forced into early retirement. It certainly doesn’t seem like a good time to ask for that vacation time off, does it? Sometimes, the work of those that have gone is foisted upon you, as the positions at your job go unfilled.

So, when you shuffle on home at the end of the day, you just need to relax. We’ve been told, letting stress build up is no good for your health. So, you have to take action to control your stress. Maybe you workout to combat stress. Maybe you eat your feelings. Whatever your plan (or non-plan) may be, you have your routine to keep your sanity. So, when your family asks you to change that, it is understandable why you might get a little nervous and cling to your routine with a resounding “No.”

Work commute

Even though this is part of my commute, I still need to de-stress when I get home from work.

All work and no play makes Supermom a dull girl. It’s a good thing I’m not yet Supermom, because I can set my routine aside and get me some yes.

If you follow my blog, you may know I’ve been suffering some leg pain, and recently was told I have a bone tumor in my femur. So, when my husband asked me out of the blue to go for a walk with him one evening after work, I definitely had a valid excuse. When I opened my mouth to answer him, “Yes.” came out instead. It wasn’t a long walk and we didn’t break a sweat, but I had a chance to connect with my husband, which I would have missed out on had I declined his invitation.

My 12-year-old suddenly emerged from his room, which is a rare circumstance indeed, and asked if he could watch TV with me. I had too much to do to play couch potato in the middle of the afternoon, he must see how busy I am. “Sure.” As we watched one of his favorite shows, he started telling me about the people on the show. Then we ended up having a conversation about his future, and that he may not want to go to the regular high school, here in our town. Even though all his friends will be going there, he thinks he wants to go to the Technical High School. Now, we could have discussed this later, he has the rest of this year and next school year to decide. But I was there for him, and now we both know that when he needs a sounding board, I’ll be there for him.

I am by no means a superfan of sports, but I like cheering for the local teams, and this time of year that means watching Patriot’s games. (I love the Bruins, but the channel their games is broadcasted on, is not in our cable package, BOO COMCAST!). Then, the baby indicated he wanted to explore outside. The sun was going down, and it would be getting cool. I was all comfy, settled in to watch the game. Don’t I deserve some “Me” time?

Instead, I said “Okay.” and outside we went, where this happened:

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Maybe that isn’t so much, but I bet it meant something to him, more than looking at the leaves through the glass door, or hearing me cheer for the Patriots. Then something even better happened. My husband came outside to join us and snapped this picture of me and the baby:IMG_0923

That’s my hubby’s finger in the upper right hand corner, but who cares? I love this picture. And all I had to do was say “Yes.” So, go out there and get yourself all of the Yes you can squeeze in.

What did you say yes to today?

Things Work Out

My sister sent me this poem in an email some years ago. I don’t remember what the occasion was, maybe it was during the time of my divorce, or that time I got fired for accidentally exposing my company’s owner as fraud (I’ll have to write about that one). Whatever it was, it passed and things did, indeed, work out. I’m hoping they will again, as I go in tonight for the MRI on my femur to check out that bone tumor. As the doctor said, it’s most likely benign, and the only evidence that this moment gave me a little scare, will be this post, which I share with all of you.

Things Work Out

by Poet: Edgar A. Guest

Because it rains when we wish it wouldn’t,
Because men do what they often shouldn’t,
Because crops fail, and plans go wrong-
Some of us grumble all day long.
But somehow, in spite of the care and doubt,
It seems at last that things work out.

Because we lose where we hoped to gain,
Because we suffer a little pain,
Because we must work when we’d like to play-
Some of us whimper along life’s way.
But somehow, as day always follows the night,
Most of our troubles work out all right.

Because we cannot forever smile,
Because we must trudge in the dust awhile,
Because we think that the way is long-
Some of us whimper that life’s all wrong.
But somehow we live and our sky grows bright,
And everything seems to work out all right.

So bend to your trouble and meet your care,
For the clouds must break, and the sky grow fair.
Let the rain come down, as it must and will,
But keep on working and hoping still.
For in spite of the grumblers who stand about,
Somehow, it seems, all things work out.

This is actually part of my commute to work. I get to start the day with this view.

This is actually part of my commute to work. I get to start the day with this view.

How to Stay Strong in the Face of Bad News

There will always be times in your life when things do not go your way. To be able to move forward despite your disappointment is a skill that any supermom, or any one for that matter, needs to master.

For many years, this was a skill that eluded me. I looked to my brother and his struggles and learned from his example. He never let obstacles slow him down, he would just adjust course. To read more about his story, please read my post Loss of a Sibling.

It would seem that recently, life has been testing my ability to stay strong in the face of utter defeats. I think I’ve done well coping with my new struggles this year, and I hope you can employ these tips and stay strong.

#1. Reach out for support.

It is my time to shine. I had a good year at work. I met my goals, I even surpassed some. I did get a “Good job.” from my boss for the marked improvement in report submission. The improvement is appreciated. Perfect time to ask for that promotion, right?

Maybe not. But next year looks good.

I was crushed. I held it together, and finished the meeting with my boss. We finished with a strategy to get me that promotion, next year. After she left my office, though, it was time to call in my support group. I called my husband first, who promptly called my boss a jerk. After, I called my mom, who of course decided that my boss was only trying to keep me down because I was her work horse, her secret weapon. I made her look good, and it just wouldn’t do to have me be promoted out of there.

These things aren’t true, of course. But in that moment, it’s what I really needed. Because I didn’t want to end that meeting with a smile and a handshake, I wanted to scream in her face! Doesn’t she know how expensive things are? How hard I’ve worked? How much I needed that raise? How can I work properly when I’m constantly worried about providing for my family? I can’t even afford their health insurance benefit anymore. Each year the premium has risen, so they are taking more and more out of my check. A small raise would help at least cover their expensive premiums, but without one, my check gets smaller and smaller.

But your support group shouldn’t just put down those that disappoint you. Nothing will show my boss that I deserve that promotion more than taking her constructive criticism and coming back more dedicated than ever. After that initial emotionally charged period, your support network will help you move on to the next step. From the extra hug I got from my husband the next morning before work, to a coworker that gave me tips on how she got her promotion when she was in a similar situation at our office, they give you the support to come back strong.

#2. Be sad.

Sometimes, I just have myself a little cry. It may not sound like something a strong person would do, but to keep your emotions stuffed down in side you is not good for you. A very smart lady said “It takes a shit ton of strength and courage to be a sensitive person in this world.” (Thanks Hattie Cooper/The Anxious Girl’s Guide to Dating in 2013)

People tend to give you space and time to be sad when catastrophic events occur. I still shed a tear for my brother at random moments. Misting up over the miscarriage is more difficult, because I didn’t tell people at work what had happened, and I don’t want to. Taking those few moments to have a cry can reinforce you. It is a release of the stress and emotion building up inside you. Let it go, let it out, and you’ll feel better.

For smaller disappointments, this strategy still works. Give yourself a little time to release the emotion from each small disappointment. If you are a private person, that is fine. Excuse yourself and find a space where you can release the emotion. This leaves you unfettered and ready to handle the next emotional thing that will happen in your day.

#3. Process what happened.

After you let out the emotion, there is more room in your brain for making plans.

At a recent doctor appointment for my chronic knee pain, the doctor let me know at the end of my visit that I had a tumor on my femur. His attitude was laid-back, meant to keep me calm about what he was telling me. They wanted an MRI of my femur, so they could better judge if it was benign or malignant, but I shouldn’t go home and worry because they were confident it was benign.

Well, Google isn’t so confident. It seems these types of tumors are more common in young people who are still growing. So, to have developed this in my late 30’s tells me (again the source being Google) that it is most likely malignant. Freak out time!

Nope, I’m going to stay strong. The fact is, it could be malignant, but all the Googling in the world won’t diagnose my tumor. I need to get an MRI, and then maybe a biopsy, gather the data to determine what type of tumor it is. Either way, some type of treatment will be called for, and I can deal with it when that happens.

To try to process something that hasn’t happened yet can just drive you crazy. There are so many ‘what ifs’ out there, it’s a miracle we make it through each day. But we do, most times without incident. So, stick to the facts.

#4. Make a plan.

Plans are great. They can fill you with energy. It is like looking up at an insurmountable peak, and then seeing that around the corner, there are steps that you can take to the top. The steps are your plan. My boss and I made goals for the coming year. Reaching those goals will make it easier to get a promotion. So, I made plans on things I can do at work that will help me reach those goals. My husband and I, though crushed by our loss this past summer, plan to continue to try for another baby. Just making that decision helped me recover some of my strength. We have also planned a memorial on what would have been the baby’s birth date. He wants us to get matching tattoos to remember our son – that plan isn’t final yet. My doctor and I have a plan for my femur. I’m going to get an MRI and see him again at the end of the month.

Having a plan can make you feel in control over a situation that may have left you feeling helpless. You are not helpless, make a plan, or adjustments to your previous plans, to get to where you want to be.

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Moms are pure strength. We have to be strong for many reasons. But it isn’t something that just happens overnight. If you are feeling downtrodden, reach out to your support network, feel all the feels, but keep your focus on the facts of what happened, then, make a plan to get yourself back on track. This will lead you to see the strength that is within you.

How do you stay strong? Please share in the comments.

My Work Doesn’t Offer the Best Health Insurance for MY Family – Open Enrollment

I’ve been watching all the pennies lately, trying to improve my financial well-being. I have reconfigured our budget, consolidated our debt, clipped coupons and overhauled our rewards programs. There are great resources out there to help the financially non-savvy, such as myself, educate themselves about how money works and what steps to take to reach your financial goals, whatever they may be. One of my favorites right now is The Black Belt of Finance blog. Check it out.

For many people, it is open enrollment time. Time to review and update your health insurance benefits, either through work or with the your state’s health insurance marketplace (which you can find via www.healthcare.gov.)

Once I got to the place in my career where health insurance was a given benefit, I naturally assumed the plans my job offered were the best that were available to me. Maybe at one time, that was true. Before the Affordable Care Act, it seemed reasonable to assume that because your employer was paying for a portion of your insurance premium, that you would never be able to find a comparable insurance plan for less money. Really, it wasn’t something that was even on my radar, to shop around for health insurance. If your employer offered it, you took it.

That seems to have changed, and people should sit up and take notice, because they could be saving themselves money!

For my particular situation, it was a few factors, all happening together, that made my insurance shopping a must.

First, my employer decided to so some shopping themselves. They did a review health plans, and decided they would stick with our current provider. That’s fine. However, as part of the review, they took into account changing to high- deductible health plans. They found it would save them money. Emphasis on them. The employees ended up getting a raw deal. The insurance company saved money, and my company saved money, but the employees ended up with big bills, even though my employer still paid 75% of our premium.

Second, the Affordable Care Act provided new ways to get health insurance along with subsidies to help you pay premiums. Really, you are trading having your employer pay a portion, to letting Uncle Sam pay a portion.

Third, my family grew quickly. I used to only have to insure my self and my son. Then I got married and had a baby, which doubled the number of people I had to find coverage for. It has also been discussed beginning to include my step-children on our insurance. If we choose to do that, I would be covering 6 people.

Let’s take a look at some real world numbers, to make the point clear:

Back in 2013, on my old health plan, I paid $434.16 a month for my portion of the insurance premium. What I got in return for my hard-earned money was a plan that did not require a Primary Care Physician (PCP), had no deductible, I didn’t need referrals to see a specialist, I paid a flat rate for my prescriptions, and I only spent $1990 that year out-of-pocket. I felt that maybe I wasn’t getting a deal, but the chuck of change that came out of my check bought me freedom from the dreaded medical bills, which can wreak havoc on a budget. Total expense: $7199.92

Now let’s look at 2014, when the new plans were offered. I opted for a High Deductible plan with a Health Savings Account. Our company (maybe out of guilt) offered to deposit $1500 in our HSA. This was a crucial selling point to those, like me, that were upset at losing our previous plan, while expensive, provided us a sense of peace that the bills were taken care of. It was also important, because my individual deductible was $1500 ($3000 for the family). I knew I would reach my deductible early in the year, because I had the baby in 2014, in April to be exact. So, for the rest of the year I enjoyed cheaper prescriptions, and no bills when seeing the doctor. We all did. For this, I had to pay $390.32 a month.

That’s right, $44 separated the nirvana of not worrying about medical bills, to me doing all the work, chasing down insurance payments and making sure nothing slipped through the cracks. How many times have I wished I could pay $44 a month for someone to take this headache off my To-Do list. On top of the premium deduction, I also put $180/month into my HSA. I spent the full $3000 deductible out of my HSA and rolled over $660 to 2015. I also spent $684.67 on prescriptions. Total Expense: $6868.51

When you compare the two years, the cost is very similar, if you include the cost of my time to handle all the bills.

So, then 2015 came along. The premium went up to $421.72. The new plan wasn’t so bad, maybe more work on my part, but what could I do, it’s what my work offered. The big difference was, since I didn’t have a big medical event (thank goodness), like the delivery in 2014, we didn’t hit our deductible until September. And forget the money in the HSA, it’s gone. Because not only do I have to pay the deductible, I have to pay full price on prescriptions until I meet that deductible. One prescription I had been on for years, I had to suddenly stop taking, because I went to refill it and it was $800! So far, I’m on track to spend more in 2015, than I did in either 2014 or 2013. Prescriptions alone will end up costing me $860. New glasses cost $329.93, I didn’t get myself any, I couldn’t afford new glasses, even though my prescription changed. And i have yet to re-order contacts for my husband and son. Total (Estimated) Expense: ~$8000

I found myself no longer making decisions based on what was best for my health, but what I could afford. Oh, how I missed 2013. Keep in mind, this is for a healthy family. My children only have been to the doctor for well-visits.

So, I took a look at what was offered through my state’s insurance marketplace, and found my children were eligible for insurance at no cost to me, and my husband and I were eligible for a subsidy. In fact, I can insure my family for $86 a month through this system. If I kept my plan through work, the rates for 2016 would be $441.54 per month.

Of course, this sounds too good to be true, so I had to check it out. I would be back to the old co-pay system $20 to visit the doctor, $50 to go to the E.R., my prescriptions would be $10 each. It doesn’t offer vision benefits, and I couldn’t find a place to even add vision, but the benefit I currently have is crap. It’s only good for 25% off my glasses and contacts (which we all wear except the baby), and when we got new glasses last month, we couldn’t even use my insurance vision benefit, because we took advantage of the buy one get one free promotion at the store. I would also have to go back to the old system of seeing my primary care physician any time I needed to see a specialist, to get a referral.

I’m not a financial guru, or any type of expert on insurance, I can only tell you how this change has felt. Seeing how things have played out in 2015, which is more indicative of how this new plan will work for my family, I feel betrayed by my company. But my upbringing tells me not to accept hand-outs. My company has shifted the health insurance cost onto me, but it is my choice as to whether or not I should pass that burden on the U.S. taxpayers, something frowned upon in my family.

And yet, my parents grew up in Ireland. When they went to the doctor, it was part of the public health care system. Today, people would say if you can’t afford health care, you shouldn’t have children. That wasn’t the case then, as my dad was 1 of 9 and my mother had 11 siblings. I remember clearly my father discussing that medical care was not sought in many cases in my extended family. Many of my relatives that stayed in Ireland died of different types of cancers, mostly weeks after consulting a doctor, because for them, you didn’t see a doctor until you were gravely ill.

So, here I am, with a decision to make. An extra $350 a month in my paycheck would be huge. The cost to my employer, if I opt to go with them would be $1766.16. The cost to the tax payer, if I opt for the subsidy, $408. I think no matter which I choose, the insurance company comes out on top.

Have you shopped around for health insurance? What has been your experience? Do you have any advice for me? Please comment below. Thanks!