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Travel budget?

January 24th, 2010 at 03:03 pm

So the drive home wasn't bad. Dense fog and rain through southern MN and nothing but light rain and a lot of wind in IA. Made it in 6 hours, which is the average.

So I'm trying to figure out how we're going to cover at home expenses and medical travel costs (food, hotels, gas) while we're gone for DW's drug treatment. Right now we have enough in savings to just pull a bit out for a weeks long trip, and then get it reimbursed by my job when I get back. DW's drug treatment is 4 months long. We go to Mayo for 3 weeks, then home a week, and do that 4 times. Plus another month for the transplant and recovery. So we need to be able to cover 3 weeks worth of expenses there at a shot, then get it reimbursed by my job. We would basically be using the same money each time, because it would be reimbursed by the time we went back to Minnesota.

The hotel is $580 for a month, or $225 for a week, so it makes more sense to just get the a hotel room for a month at a time. It has a kitchenette in it - microwave, stove top, and small fridge. So we could reasonably go to the store and get groceries and cook as opposed to getting fat eating out all the time. So I would say our food budget wouldn't change much - maybe be $350 a month instead of $250. Plus gas is about 25 cents a gallon higher there, and we use about 40 miles a day there round trip on the hotel. So that raises our gas budget from $150 a month to about $250 when you figure in the $80 in gas it takes to get there and back. Total monthly costs go up by roughly $780 a month.

We currently pay $150 a month on our maid service - yes I know, it's a lot for something we can do ourselves. You have no idea how much it has improved our marriage to have it, because DW and I would fight all weekend when we did the house cleaning. It's money well spent, IMO. Anyway, we will cancel that for the time we are in Mayo, so for 5 months.

That makes our cost increase go from $780ish to about $530ish. We have that in savings without touching the EF. So would it be a good idea to just pull out $750 from savings and use that, giving us $220 in wiggle room? Then have it reimbursed each month, and keep using it until the transplant is done, at which time it will be reimbursed into the savings account.

The other thing is that my jobs mileage rate is 50 cents a mile. So I get $370 a trip for gas. They don't cover the gas while we're there - they cover the travel mileage to get there and back. So if we spend $250 a month in gas, and get everything else reimbursed, we come out ahead $120 a month. Over the course of 5 months of that, and 5 trips, we come out ahead $600. So really, we could be putting that extra $120 a month back into the savings account each month.

Does this make sense to everybody as far as a financial plan to cover the expenses of the trip? We could do this without changing any of our budget each month - just by taking $750 out of simple savings and having it reimbursed.

The alternative is to get a pay advance, which completely screws up the budget. I get my bonus in May, which is half way through the drug treatment. I just don't want to turn down the pay advance and go off half cocked in doing so. I think I've looked at everything here, but I'm just not certain. We have $2000 in our EF right now and are putting an extra $835 into it each month. We could just stop doing that instead of getting a pay advance if need be.

Am I overlooking anything?

After a long absence...

December 31st, 2009 at 03:08 pm

So it has been a few months since I've posted on here. Really, not a lot has changed. The army has placed me in a TDY (temporary duty) status indefinitely pending my wife's transplant. This means I still get all pay and allowances, but don't go to work. I do my PT test every 6 months, and submit leaves and passes as needed for medical appointments, but other than that my full time job is taking care of my wife. It's a pretty sweet deal.

To that end, DW is doing pretty good. She gets sick from time to time still, but much improved. She has a blood clot in her fistula, which she has an appointment today for to have it looked at again.

I go to Mayo on January 20th to have my donor evaluation physical to give DW my kidney. Mayo is going to proceed with a drug called Velcade that is used in bone cancer as a form of pill induced chemo. This is supposed to kill DW's immune system so she won't reject my kidney. It's a wonder drug for organ donation because it takes two otherwise incompatible people and gives them the same survivability rate as a good match. All that is required now is blood type matching. It takes 16 weeks on this drug and it's not a good option for all people, because the patient needs a caretaker for those 16 weeks, so we both would be out of work if I had a normal job. Most people cannot afford that, much less to do that and cover lodging and expenses while away from home. The army foots the bill and then some for all of this.

I'm almost done submitting a packet to the Surgeon General to have signed off on to give DW my kidney. The military has to have approval from the Surgeon General to allow active duty organ donation.

Not too much else going on. Had an awesome Christmas. First time my sisters and I were all at home together with my Grandma in 10 years. Grandma teared up, which is a lot for a roughneck from the foothills of Appalachia. My little sister managed to get Christmas R&R from Afghanistan in order to make it happen. She had to fly for 3 days to get home.

We're strongly considering my departure from the military. While it's been a good ride, I don't think it's what I want to do. I would much prefer to be a lawyer and go into politics. It's a difficult decision though because while Doctors and Lawyers often make a great deal of money, they sacrifice their family time in order to do so. That in itself is a major factor in my wanting to get out of the military.

The retirement options of the military are great, and if I do another 14 years from the time I finish this contract, I get out when I'm 38 with full medical for myself and DW for the rest of our lives and our kids until they graduate high school. It would also pay $38K towards one of our kids college. Difficult to pass up. The problem with this is that the second I sign re-enlistment papers I come down on orders. Right now I'm what's called "fenced in". Meaning I'm a first term soldier with 3 or more duty stations, so the army cannot move me again until I re-up. However, I also have just shy of 18 months of dwell time, which is the magic number for orders. I would be sent back to Cuba without doubt.

DW doesn't care which I choose. The money is quite good in the military, considering the pension with disability. I'll also qualify for veterans disability because of giving DW my kidney, chronic problems with my knees, and the fact that I'm being referred for guess what? A hearing aide at 22 years old. Gotta love the army. The doc says I'm so deaf, I probably wouldn't hear a shell casing hit the ground or concertina wire being cut. That makes me feel safe.

We also filed a lawsuit against the hospital that messed up everything with DW, causing the open heart surgery, cutting the wrong vein and not fixing it, etc. The biggest reason is that they keep sending us a bill for $10,000 and our insurance won't pay it, because it was the hospitals mistake that caused the surgery that resulted in the bill. Neither will we. And they won't agree to eat the money. The bill is for the open heart surgery which is a direct result of their mistake. I'm not after any money on it, just to make the bills go away and the collections be taken off our credit report. The lawyer filed suit for $250,000 plus all medical expenses, past and future, relating to the claim. The statutory cap in Kansas on all medical malpractice suites is $250,000. The lawyer said she has to file in that amount just to be able to meet her costs on a contigency basis. If we win the $250K, she gets 33% of it, which is $82,500. She said it costs her between $80K and $100K to do a case like this. Completely stupid that it costs the lawyer ten times the amount we're trying to avoid paying. I don't care as long as we don't have to pay for the hospitals mistake. It's a matter of principle to me.

It's been a bad year financially because of all the stuff with DW. As much as the army pays, we still have a lot of out of pocket stuff. At one point we had an $8,000 cushion. Right now, it's about $1,600. Slowly building it back up. Should have around a $500 tax return between me and DW. The army will give us mileage of $376 when I go to Mayo in a couple weeks, and it only costs $80 in gas. That will help out.

We're putting away $835 a month into a money market as an ACH payment trying to get the EF back. DW's disability is $441, which account for half of it. We also put $200 a month into a Roth, which isn't much, but better than nothing. If I do re-up, my bonus will be $16,000. We could put that in the EF and then pay the $835 a month into the Roth, and switch the Roth's meager $200 a month to the EF. Slowly build the savings, while quickly working on retirement. If we do win the lawsuit and get all we ask for, it would pay off the mortgage and leave at least $25,000 extra. That's not the goal by any means, but if it happens, I'm not going to balk. The lawsuit takes 2 years on average, so we're by no means counting our eggs. Heck, we may end up in court on collections with the hospital before our lawsuit is done. Wouldn't that be our luck.

But it's been a blessed year all in all. DW made it through the worst of it. This time next year she will be back to work fully recovered if everything goes well. That's the plan my friends. 8 or 9 more months of this kidney trouble, then I'll be back to work, and DW will be back in about 10 months if all goes to plan.

I'll most likely end up re-enlisting simply for the fact that I can retire when I'm 38 and never have to work again in my life if I don't want to. Kinda got the gleam in my eye to retire on $60,000 a year and not owing one red cent to anyone and having health care paid for for life. DW and I could do anything we wanted to. Hard to knock.