Debt Free

Fun With Medical Bills and Insurance Claims

So this is what I like to consider fun.

Someone requires to go to the hospital.

We go.

We wait.

We get seen.

We copay.

We leave.

Then a few weeks later we get a check in the mail from the insurance company…

“What is this?”, we ask ourselves.

“Hmm… I wonder if it was for that thing that happened 3 months ago… ok, great, let’s cash it and put it towards our debt snowball.”



10 months after that point you’ll get a bill from the hospital that they conveniently forgot to send you.

Thanks hospital.

There should be an expiration of services rendered and when you can no longer bill against them.

Fortunately this time, my wife was on top of it.

She called the ever-so-wonderful people at the hospital, and spent over an hour on the phone with them telling them that they need to bill us.

The whole “Shut up and take my money” has a different meaning when it comes to hospitals, because they were very adamant about us NOT owing them anything.

“Great, could you please put that in writing and send it to us?”

And that’s when the pause happens.

I’m sure they know that once they do that, we would have proof that we owe them nothing.

That’s when they REALLY start to look for our misplaced bill.

Sure enough “Oh here it is, I’ll send you the bill shortly.”

So we deposit the check into savings, and wait for this bill to show up.

Thank goodness too, as the check from the insurance company was about to expire in a few weeks, and then we’d really be up a creek without a paddle.


Debt Free

My Laptop Got Fried and I Just Cut Up All My Credit Cards

Back in April, shortly after I had canceled all of my credit cards, my laptop fried.

Now, this isn’t your run of the mill blue light special laptop that would be of no concern to replace.

No, this was a fully loaded Dell XPS 15, with an upgraded 500gb msata hard drive, that I bought for over $2000 just about a year prior.

I had just gotten off work, I headed upstairs and placed my laptop on the kitchen table.

I fed the kids, and went to go play a little bit of my latest gaming crave, I liked the game because it was fun to just munch away, cut people off, and occasionally get too greedy and get yourself killed.

Well, my son came up to me and sat on my lap as I played.

Not too bad.

But then he noticed the glowing power button.

And, decided to press it.

Before I knew what was going on, my computer just turned off.

Very upset that my son had put my computer into sleep mode, I put him down, told him that he wasn’t to do that without asking, and told him to go play with his sister.

I then pushed the button.


I waited.

I pushed the button again.


My heart starts to beat faster and faster as I slowly start to realize that my computers not in sleep mode.

Ok, so what next.

A quick google search, and I’m attempting to solve for static electricity.

I pull the bottom off, unplug the battery, hold the power for the recommended time frame, and then plug everything back in.

Nope. Still not working.

More searching. More solutions. Nothing works.


What do I do?

I had just sworn off credit cards, but this is literally my livelihood. Sure it provides me with some entertainment, such as, some abandomware, and of course some World of Warcraft, Starcraft, and Diablo (ok, ok, so I like me some Blizzard games).

I could do without the entertainment things for awhile since I still have some other actual gaming consoles.

But this is what I program on.

Yes, I (thankfully) have my source code saved to some GIT repositories… But setting up a new environment, with all the ram, and the necessary tools is just a pain in the butt!!!

So I sat, and I thought.

And then in dawned on me that I could bring my computer in to be repaired.

People do it all the time.

Actually, I’ve usually done it for myself.

BUT… laptops are a fairly new territory for me.

Sure, I can replace the batteries, hard drives, and ram. But replace a motherboard? That starts to go down the path of “I’ll pay someone else to do this, and not worry about the headache”.

So I brought in my laptop to Micro Center, the place that I bought it from.

Did I mention that the store manager shook my hand and thanked me for shopping there when I bought it? Did I mention that I love this store? Well, maybe that will be a story for another day 🙂

Anyway, I chat with the clerks who take it off my hands. But first, I made sure they could do everything they needed without my hard drives, as they did still have some data on there that I needed for work.

2 weeks later, they diagnosed it with either the motherboard, or the power terminal but recommended it be shipped off to a facility.

I agreed.

2 weeks later, they called back and mentioned that the fix will be a little over $500, but it is guaranteed to fix it.

Let’s see…

$500 for a fixed laptop, or $2000 for a new one. Well, I can scrape together the $500, but $2000 will be much harder to do when you’re dealing with cold hard cash.

Sign me up.

A week later they had it back in my hands.

I reinstalled my drives, and only had to deal with a “This system wasn’t shut down properly, and we’re going to do a scan”.

No Issues.

The moral of the story is that without credit, you have to think of different ways of solving a problem that you would otherwise swipe some plastic at.

It’s why I have 4, count them, 4 unused laptops just chilling in my basement, as well as a handful of desktop PCs.

I am now in the process of getting rid of them, thanks to this wonderful uncluttering book by KonMari I read just a few weeks ago (a story for another day).

So if you find yourself in a predicament of “something expensive broke, what do I do now?”, I suggest sitting down to think of a solution. You don’t HAVE to replace the AC or the dishwasher. Those are nice luxuries in life. Fans work, and so does a sponge with soap.

As for me and my house, we will not be slaves to the lender. Ever. Again.


Debt Free

The Adventures with the IRS

So my wife likes to Get Things Done. Not the David Allen way, but she does not sit around to do anything.


I’m sure there’s a few funny stories in there somewhere, but that will have to wait.

For now, this is a story of our 2012 taxes.

About November of 2015, we got a letter from the IRS stating that we owed them somewhere around $2500, and it listed various things.

Most of it was $20 in this category, $30 in that, etc.

But there was one area that was huge.


It was the Social Security Tax Withholding line with a whopping $2300 (or so).


So this needed some sleuthing. And sleuth I did.

Fortunately we used Turbo Tax online, and they happened to keep all of our past records in the cloud.

So I opened up that years taxes.

I went through everything numerous times, but wasn’t able to find what the issue was.

So then I googled something. I don’t recall what it was off the top of my head, but it had something to do with how that tax / withholding was calculated.

It brought me to one of the lines in the W2.

These looked like the right numbers that we had, so what could it be?

Well, somehow I stumbled across what Social Security Number was being used for the entry.

And that’s where it was.

The SSN was the same in for both hers and mine.

The tax software looking at this, said “You paid too much in Social Security… Congratulations, you get a refund…”

Awesome, right? Maybe at the time, but it came back to bite us in the ass. Hard.

And now for the backstory of how it happened.

Since she likes to do things right away, it was her goal to maximize our deductions on our tax returns.

So, she first looked to see what it would look like if we filed Married Joint.

Then she looked to see what it would look like to file Married Separate.

Turns out, Married Joint was the best way to go.

Unfortunately, she didn’t change the SSN for one of us. And by the way, if anyone is reading this from Turbo Tax, please make this a little more apparent in future softwares, yes?

Anyway, we get our refund, and we go about life for the next couple of years.

Fast forward to 11/2015.

We have a choice. Write them a check for the full amount, or write a check and submit for a payment plan.

The plan was to write them a check for $100/month until we could pay them off.

Fortunately, we could afford $200/month without flinching.

For the next 4 months, I got the bill, and wrote a check for $200.

By the 5th month, I started to notice that the principle was still well above $2000.

A further look made me realize that that $140 of the $200 was going towards the 3% post-dated back interest, which left $60 going towards principle.

No Way, Jose!


Not in my house!

If we were to keep up that pace, we’d be paying off the IRS for years… YEARS!!! (I don’t have the exact calculation mapped out, but 2500/60 is a ways to go…)

So, we scraped together everything, suffered through some beans and rice, and wrote them a check for the payoff amount the following month.

If you’ve never believed Proverbs 22:7 that the borrower is slave to the lender, you’ve never closely looked at your credit card statements enough to see what your future would be full of if you made minimum payments (which are usually just enough to cover the interest plus a little bit of principle).

I was quite nervous for the next few weeks as I waited for the check to clear.

And was also nervous that enough interest had accrued that we’d still owe something, even if it was $20.

But nothing came in the mail.

Black Suburbans didn’t show up to my house to congratulate us for paying off the bills.

Nope. Just an overwhelming feeling of relief.

As Dave Ramsey put it, I gave that bill an eviction notice, and they are gone, and I’m happy that they’re gone.

And they aren’t welcome here for thanksgiving dinner.

Good riddance.


Debt Free

Becoming Debt Free – Closing out our Credit Cards

I want to tell you all about the process it took for me to close out my credit cards.

But first, a little bit of a background.

Back in 2011 or so, our church in New York did a series using Financial Peace and handed out books for The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey.

This seemed all good and fun, but I didn’t quite bite on as I probably should have.

Fast forward to November / December of 2013.

Our son is around 7 months old, and the car I was driving was starting to act up. Nothing major, but enough to be like “I want something else…”. So I went out and bought a nice car. A 2013 Subaru Impreza WRX STI Sedan to be exact.

I loved this car. A buddy of mine had a 2005 back in the day, which inspired me to get this one.

Well, I bought hook line and sinker into many of the dealership upgrades.

  • You want it for less than $500 a month? We can’t do that. Here you go, take it or leave it…
    • And boy did I take it…
  • If you buy this $3,000 gold package, we can get you a better rate AND it actually lowers your payments
    • I had never needed to use the Gold package (don’t really remember what it does, to be honest… I think I have the paperwork still around here somewhere).
  • You should also get this maintenance package that you prepay for, and get the best deal for oil and services.
    • I had only used the maintenance package once. The dealership is about 40-45 minutes away (not including traffic), and was a pain to get scheduled / serviced quickly. So I ended up just buying my own Subaru branded filters and oil and did it myself.

Well, I can afford this car. Scratch that… I can “afford” the payments. As Uncle Dave says: “Rich people say ‘How much?’, broke people say ‘What’s the payment?'”. I was acting like a broke person.

But anyway, back to the story.

February comes around, and we join a Financial Peace University class in our neighborhood.

What does Uncle Dave say about these cars? A lot. But the main takeaway that I got was to sell the car.

Well crap.

I wanted to sell my car, but there were other things I needed to get rid of as well.

I then spent the next year working on a property I had in Wyoming. Every weekend, for 48 hours I was working on my house. Repairs, replacements, maintenance, painting, cleaning, etc. It took quite a toll on everything: The budget, the family, my body.

But eventually it was sold for a profit, and I was able to pay off some debts.

Didn’t cancel / close those lines of credit at that point, and we also chose to spend on some not-so-necessary items (new couch, new phones, new laptop, new water softener system).

Whoops. Shoulda knew better from FPU, but I choose the path of out earning my stupidity over a year later.

Fast forward to about 4 months ago.

I closed 4 credit cards, totaling around $31,000 of open credit. These have been paid off for quite some time, I just never seemed to pull the trigger on finalizing the closure.

During this process, my anxiety was high.

  • What are they gonna say?
  • What if they convince me to keep it open?
  • What if, what if, what if?

Here’s how it usually went down.

  1. Call
  2. Key in your account number
  3. Listen for the menu for a representative
  4. Wait a couple of minutes
  5. Verify more info with representative
  6. Ask to close the account
  7. Get transferred
  8. Verify same info again
  9. Confirm you want to close the account
  10. “Thank you for your business Mr Hatch, have a wonderful rest of your day”


One of the cards actually allowed me to cancel it WITHOUT speaking with a representative. Just a verbal “Yes” on confirmation.

But, to my surprise, the sky did not part. The sun did not shine down on me in a beam of awe and wonder.

Instead, I was filled with relief. Not because the cards are closed, but because it’s over, and I don’t have to be anxious about doing it anymore.

And after they are closed, you start to think differently about solving problems.

In an upcoming post, I’ll talk about my adventures with the IRS, my laptop that got fried, as well as medical bills and insurance claims.