Tuesday, January 13

Murphy's Law: 1,764. Us: 0.

This may be a tad disorganized. I'm sleep-deprived -- Restless Leg Syndrome kept me up til 4 a.m. and then woke me up again at 10:30 a.m.

Suffice to say, it's not been a good couple days.

Saturday, I checked our bank balance, and had a nice little heart attack when I discovered we were negative nearly $200.

After a minor bout of apoplexy, I checked the transaction history and found that Tim's health insurance had taken out $502. This was news to us, given that last month the premium was $336.

Sure that it was a mistake, I went to the website to check premiums... And discovered that Tim's rates had been raised by $60ish because he just turned 30. Combine that with the new, 2009 rates ($100 more than last year) and voila, you have an impeccable charge that nevertheless screws us over big time.

Luckily, a relative recently offered us a no-interest loan -- with payments not starting til June. So I zoomed over to the bank and threw the check in the ATM, thereby avoiding about $90 in overdraft fees for that day alone. (Another $60-90 for Sunday/Monday, too.)

Okay, fine, so (more accurately) the title should be Murphy's Law: 1764, Us: 1.

Point is, now we don't get to put the full check amount toward debt, which was disheartening to me. Also, $100 of mine that was in the bank from Christmas, waiting to be spent, was sucked up by the $502 charge.

Meanwhile, on Monday, Tim ran a couple of errands, including going to the bank for quarters for laundry. (He'd used the last one that morning. I skipped a shower so that he wouldn't have to.) Turns out, despite the fact that our relative also banks at WaMu, the check is still being held. According to Tim, they said something about it having to go downtown, since I put it in the ATM and not the night drop box? I don't get it. Nor do I care to.

The upshot is that we have nothing in checking, despite having a ledger balance of nearly $2000.

So I woke up today not just sleep-deprived and seriously considering leg amputation, but also desperately in need of a shower. Seriously, it's a good thing my cat's part Persian, so she can't really smell much. Otherwise she'd be scampering away, yowling in odor-agony.

I went and borrowed some towels from mom so that I can stand to be in the same room as myself. (Yes, you read that right.) And we will probably have to borrow some quarters from her too -- which we can pay back along with the cash I had to borrow from her yesterday for my therapist.

See, it turns out that we're out of checks. Of course, I didn't know this last Monday, when I messed up on the check to my counselor. In case you're wondering, you can mess up a check several ways -- which I have proven in the past -- but this particular time it was by writing the amount of the check on the "Pay To" line.

So, having promised to mail her a corrected check, I get home to discover that's impossible. The next day, Tuesday, we went to the bank and ordered new checks. But, of course, they didn't make it here by yesterday evening. And my balance was rather high, given a few missed sessions from snow and icy conditions. (I grew up in Anchorage. I can drive on snow and ice. But Seattle drivers in those conditions? Terrifying.) So I begged some cash off mom, promising to pay her back as soon as WaMu stops being an idiot. Or, at least, once the check clears.

So, just to recap briefly:

  • Out of towels
  • No laundry money to do towels
  • Very stinky Abby
  • Very exhausted, grumpy Abby thanks to RLS
  • No checking funds available
  • Ledger balance of nearly $2000
  • Check being held, despite being drawn on a WaMu account and being put into another WaMu account.
  • Health premiums up by $156 in the span of 30 days.

The only moderately hope-inducing item in this tale of woe is that the Washington State Health Insurance Pool has a low-income application. If you make sufficiently little, they will give you a discount on your premiums.

I had Tim call and find out whether there was a distinct cut off or if each case was evaluated individually. The operator said they hadn't yet been told the 2009 income cut-offs, but 2008's was $2900.

Given that this is what I thought we were making, I did a little happy dance. Then I froze mid-dance.

My Social Security went up by $46/month. And I had been rounding Tim's unemployment down a bit in my head calling it around $1200 instead of what I now realize is $1364. Add $1364 and $881, you're up to $2245. Now realize that I make $900 a month for my contract work. We're up to $3145.

Of course, since the premiums went up by around $100, chances are that the cutoff rose by around that much. But that would mean I may still have to earn $145 LESS a month, just to save some undetermined amount.

You have to love bureaucratic math.

So, we're going to go ahead and apply, with a letter attached from me saying that we have these debts and list them. Then mention that my work may be getting cut down to $750 or $800 a month. If that lets us qualify, then I'll just have to invoice for less. Assuming the premium goes down by a sufficient amount.

Don't get me wrong, if absolutely necessary, we can pay $502. But it's really a big chunk out of our debt-reduction budget.

And there's always that fun experience of being just over the arbitrarily-determined bureaucratic cut-off. $2899 a month? Sure, of course you can't afford the premiums and here's some help. Poor thing. $2900 a month? Pssht, you'll be fine. Whiner.

Okay, okay. I know the government has to draw the line somewhere. But it's still a very strange concept, when you get right down to it. One dollar either way and you're either indigent or middle-class.

The only thing keeping me going is the idea that, even if we are over the cut-off, there are sometimes loopholes in the system. Provided you appeal enough to the right people. Which I plan to do -- as much as necessary.

For example, when Tim went into the hospital while we were dating, the financial aid people could only count me as a dependent if we were married. So we fibbed a bit and said we were engaged. (A couple of months later, we actually were.) It still didn't really count, since we weren't actually, legally married.

But once we explained that I was on disability and that Tim covered pretty much all expenses other than rent for the two of us, the lady agreed to take that into consideration. We ended up paying nothing for the hospital stay -- which, by a lucky coincidence, is exactly what we could afford at the time.

This kind of stuff just reinforces my very basic belief that there's generally a way around the rules -- so long as you ask repeatedly and are stubborn enough to wait until you get the answer you want.

So, we have had a veritable cavalcade of bad luck, lately. We have a plan to move foward, which helps a little. Meanwhile, we're just trying to get through it and shrug off most of the bad feelings.

I wish I could say that, at the time this all happened, I handled myself with quiet dignity. In fact, I had a mini-meltdown. Just one of those straw-the-broke-the-camel's-back moments. One of those straws being that I lost $100 of money I was supposed to spend on myself. Since the only money left in the account will be loan money, which is supposed to go directly to debt, I was having trouble with the idea of still spending as planned.

Both the lender of this money and Tim have scolded me. They told me it's not my fault the premiums went up. (Perhaps if it had been as a result of my actions, such as an overdraft, they might feel differently. Now they're just telling me to shut up and indulge myself.)

So, I have that to look forward to. In addition, I can always look backward, meaning I can take comfort from the fact that I have been in far worse situations. For example:

I was earning $1200 a month working at a part-time job (quickly digging myself into the hole on energy, no less). My part of the mortgage had just gone up to $600, since I had kicked out a no-good boyfriend. And in a three month span, I experienced the following:

Had the ex threaten me (in the hearing of tenants who then called the cops.) In Washington, if you've lived together, a threat is enough to be arrested for domestic violence and get a one-year restraining order slapped on you.

Three major appliances died. First the stove in the Mother-In-Law apartment downstairs. Replaced for around $350. Then the dryer. Around $300. Then the wall oven/stove top in the main house. That was a little pricier. Had a guy rip out the stovetop/island and put in a stove; take out the wall oven and put in more cabinets. Why, you ask? Because wall ovens start at around $1100.

Right at the end, I secured a full-time job. (I, of course, ended up having to quit from fatigue a couple months later, but at this point I was securly entrenched in denial.)

The last day of training before officially starting the job, I came home to find everyone standing in the street. There had been a fire and everyone had to be evacuated for what turned out to be over a month.

I just listened to the news, shrugged and said, "Well, we were running out of appliances to have break, after all."

It's all about keeping that bitter, ironic sense of humor, I tell ya.

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Blogger Shevy said...

A lot of this post resonates with me. You should have seen how relatively well-adjusted I was when my condo flooded. After all, just a few years earlier I'd seen it on the news as a 4 alarm fire when the tenant in the suite 2 stories directly above mine put in a grow op, the stolen electrical short-circuited and started a fire. (At that time we had a tenant who was leasing-to-own, so we didn't lose any personal property but we lost the sale because he walked away after that.)

I mean, there's something funny (in a twisted way) about a place that's less than 10 years old and has been rebuilt from the studs out twice. I said to someone that I'd had a fire and a flood and I was wondering what the next thing would be. He suggested a plague of locusts!

But I know *exactly* what you mean about the bank because the exact same thing happened to me several months ago.

Hubby transfers money to me fairly frequently. His account and mine are at the same branch of the same bank. One day he deposited his cheque in the ATM and then transferred money to me through the ATM. Several things were coming out the next day and they all bounced because they held the money for something like 2 days and told us it was his fault. He should have gone into the branch and done it at a teller. How were we to know? They tried to say it's all in the written material they give you when you open the account but I had them print it and read it all and there was nothing about delays and cutoff times and all that other nonsense.

January 13, 2009 at 2:41 PM

Blogger a.b. said...

Just a thought, when you talk about your income with the health insurance people, find out what income verification they want. If you make contract work and file a schedule "C" your income might be classified differently. Usually for verification of income they only want your 1040, which means your contract income could be mitigated by some of your expenses. Just a thought.

January 13, 2009 at 5:26 PM

Blogger Over the Cubicle Wall said...

Sounds like a lot of sruff to deal with all at once. Sometimes all you can do is keep moving forward. It may be painful, and take a long time, but eventually if you keep it up, you'll get to where you wanted to go.

January 13, 2009 at 5:39 PM

Blogger Abby said...


Thanks for the idea. They actually want stubs and income tax returns. Of course, we're going to have to do this year's, I suppose, since last year he was working. Also, my contract work didn't start til Sept so I don't have many expenses. But I do agree that if they see I have expenses that may help my case!


Thanks for the empathy. It is a lot to deal with but life doesn't much seem to mold itself to our needs, so much we have to learn to get what we can out of it. So we will just keep moving forward. That way, we don't collect dust, which would just add cleaning to our list!

January 13, 2009 at 6:52 PM

Blogger Shtinkykat said...

Boy, you're living proof that when it rains, it pours! This is the kind of stuff that will make anyone want to say, "F-it. I'm going on a spending binge courtesy of my cc." I'm proud of you for having a sense of humor and keeping your wits about you.

January 14, 2009 at 7:58 PM


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