Costs of sick kitties

Little Kitty needed to get her teeth cleaned.  So DH took her to the vet.

Before they could give her anesthesia, they had to do $600 worth of tests.

Unfortunately, one of the tests came back with elevated calcium levels.  So no anesthesia.  No teeth cleaning.

Instead, more tests.

First, a test for what kind of elevated calcium it was, since only the ionized kind is bad.   $214.70 and a few days time for the calcium test.

She has elevated ionized calcium.  :(

The next step is to see if she has parathyroid problems or stomach cancer.  Test for parathyroid:  $950.  Ultrasound for cancer:  $1000.  (Plus a few days to work up the estimates.)

That’s a lot of money.

So our next step is to ask what the treatment options are if either of these cost money, and what those treatments will do to Little Kitty.  If they’re things that can be fixed with minimal harm to her, then we’ll pay for the tests and the treatment.  But if they’re things where the treatment is as bad as the disease, then well, it might be best not to know.  Because kitties don’t understand what’s going on with them and they’re not gaining an additional 30 years with a successful cancer treatment, especially not older kitties.

Right now Little Kitty seems to be in high spirits.  Other than being a bit skinny and the occasional bout of IBS whenever she eats something she shouldn’t, she *seems* fine.

Still, the parathyroid thing would explain the IBS.  And elevated calcium levels do need to be treated so as not to cause problems with the kidneys.

If these $2000 turn up nothing, there will probably be more tests.  If they turn up something, then there will be more money for treatment (probably surgery, according to Dr. Google).  How much money is too much?  What is Little Kitty’s life worth?

Right now we’re fortunate to be able to say that Little Kitty is more important than a kitchen renovation.

It is going to be an expensive summer.

Money => security => easier to save money

Buying in bulk is easier when you’re not poor — not just because of the credit constraints or space for storage, but because you won’t be wiped out if you get a bug infestation, your refrigerator goes out, or your pantry gets flooded.  You can take that (small) risk of things going bad and save money because if things do go bad, you’re insured.


I think something that both Mr. Money Moustache and Laura Vanderkam miss is the security you get by having a lot of money. It’s that security that allows people to do the things that they suggest. Like, you can technically afford to hire someone to drive your kids to and from school without sacrificing spending when your family income is a certain amount, but it cuts into your savings in a way that it doesn’t if your income is 2x or 3x that amount. That savings may not seem like a big deal in terms of day to day things, but it means a huge amount when it comes to being able to take risks. When you don’t have to worry about what happens if someone loses or leaves a job, and you know your retirement is secure, you can risk more. I’ve definitely seen this when my husband got his new job and we jumped two tax brackets– we’re not spending that much more (when we’re not on sabbatical), but it’s much much easier to just throw money at problems not because we’re now making or we were making stupid choices, but because even though DH’s industry is volatile, we’re at a point where we’re going to be ok in the event of an extended job loss. We would be even more secure if we were making what LV’s family makes.

I’m not explaining this well. But it is a lot easier to spend an extra 2K when your family is bringing in 300K/year (disclaimer: I assume– I wish I had personal knowledge) than when your family is bringing in 100K/year. Even if you can “afford” it on 100K/year.

It’s not stupid to not outsource. (It’s also not stupid to outsource!) It’s all about where your budget constraint hits your utility curves.

Or as sheldon put it:

In terms of Mr. Money Moustache, it’s easier for to early retire when you have more than you need rather than the amount you’ll need and it’s easier to take career jumps that will potentially pay off when you’re not worried about saving for the future. Also it is easier to not pay money on insurance, etc. when you have enough money to self-insure.

Even though the two philosophies are exactly the opposite extremes, they both work a lot better when you have a huge amount saved (or a big steady income).

My tenure has allowed my husband to take risks with his profession.  Yes, those risks have paid off, but the thing about risks is you don’t know if they’re going to pay off.

Pre-paying the mortgage was more important when we had less money.  Having more money and more income means that it is easier to put money in the stock market and not pay off the mortgage because the mortgage won’t put you into catastrophic territory in an emergency (such as a job loss during a recession when the stock market is also falling).  You won’t need to short-sell or foreclose if you’re not underwater.  (Though if you do go bankrupt, most state laws benefit people who have paid off their homes.)


Update on missing check

Yeah, I know this should probably wait for a Monday, but we’re a bit light on posts (in fact, if there isn’t one tomorrow, we’re ok, we’re just busy)…

Anyhow, emailed the landlord and zie said that yeah, zie had gotten the missing February check but had then lost it.  So I guess we’re going to write a new check and subtract out the $15 check cancellation fee (as the landlord suggested).  I wonder what would have happened if we’d never said anything.  (Though to be completely fair, this person is probably still coping with hir partner’s death.)

Who treats whom when family comes to visit?


When DH’s parents (who are comfortably middle class with excess income that they funnel into 6 grandkids) come to visit, we’ve settled into a habit of mostly going places where we order at the counter and buy our own stuff, they pick up a meal or two that’s sit-down or take-out, and we pick up a meal or two especially if we go someplace expensive.  It used to be that they paid for everything.  For a while it was awkward with DH having to be aggressive about taking the check (and me having to remind him to be aggressive because he didn’t think about money), but we’re now at a place where the money is trivial for all of us so it’s no big deal who pays.

With my parents, we just buy everything because by myself I make 2x what my mom makes.  My mom occasionally treats for coffee or hot chocolate.  Again, it used to be that she’d pay or we’d take turns.

My sister and I tend to take turns treating (with 1 time for her for every 3-4 times for us), or we’ll buy her dinner and she’ll buy coffee or ice cream after.  She makes about my salary.

I just noticed a weird gendered thing– with DH’s family DH is the one who needs to whip out the credit card.  With my family it doesn’t matter if it is me or DH.  Generally I let DH pay for everything because I’m lazy but I feel especially awkward whipping out my card for DH’s parents.  When DH doesn’t get his card out quickly enough, I’m happy to get mine out.  (Our finances are 100% joint, so it doesn’t actually matter who gets the card out.)


Usually whoever has more money pays.  So my partner will take us all out to dinner if it’s me and my siblings and my mom.  My dad will take us all out to dinner if he’s with us/my siblings.

I usually won’t let my mom pay for dinner. I will occasionally let my sis & her husband pay for ONE of my meals, or infinite coffee, but I won’t let them pay for all of my meals.  Usually I might pay for them or we might all pitch in.  Sometimes one of us would pay for everyone’s lunch and the other would pay for everyone’s dinner.

What about you?  Who pays and why?

Ask the grumpies: Is a single house a good investment for retirement?

Amin asks:

My husband and I own a house in a city with a very high cost of living and expensive real estate. We bought the house at a very good price because while it was structurally sound it needed (still does) some aesthetic renovations. We currently have a lot of money saved up, and we’re debating what to do with it. My question is basically: are we naive to think that putting in new windows, finishing our basement, and upgrading some insulation would be good investments? We put money into TIAA-CREF every month and our universities match our contributions, but we’re hoping that in 20 years we could sell our home, buy something smaller or outside the city, and use our profit for retirement. Do you think real estate is a reliable investment? Homes in our neighborhood are currently in high demand and often sell within a few weeks (sometimes with cash offers!), but I worry that the real estate market is too fickle and unreliable for retirement plans. Any advice?

Investing in a single property is a high risk potentially high reward proposition.  No, it is not a reliable investment. Sometimes you get lucky and sometimes you don’t.  In addition, everywhere outside of California, increasing home value leads to increasing property taxes which make the cost of ownership more expensive.  So no, don’t rely on a single house in a single real estate market as a big part of your retirement (most people who have retirement wealth have that from their house, but that’s because they don’t have any other wealth).  It might work out but it might not.  It is far more risky than a diversified portfolio of index stock and index bond funds.

If you’re talking 20 years time, then most of the renovations you’re talking about will be out of date and not worth as much in the market at that point anyway.  Possible exceptions for things that tend to have a high return, like adding a second bathroom.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t renovate if you can afford to do so and want to.  Insulation and new windows can cut your energy costs (which is a form of investment depending on the break-even point).  Finishing your basement can increase the usefulness of your house.  But you shouldn’t consider them investments in the same way that your 403b portfolio is invested.  For the most part, these renovations will be consumption.

In terms of how much should you save for retirement, you should aim for at least 15% of your income, and more if you have catch-up savings to do.

What do you do when someone doesn’t cash a check?

So, our landlord cashed Jan’s rent check (and all the checks prior), and March’s rent, but not February or April’s or May’s…

Would you check in with him to ask what’s up?


update:  he has cashed April and May, so now only feb is missing.  Also there is a $15 check cancellation fee from our credit union if we cancel the check.

May mortgage update and would you prepay or increase your monthly payments when the escrow increases?

Last month (April):
Years left: 0.91666666667
P =$1,161.61, I =$52.79, Escrow =$809.48

This month (May):
Years left: 0.833333333
P =$1,166.21, I =$48.19, Escrow =$812.79

Amount saved from prepayment:  $0

Our escrow went up as it does almost every year.  When this happens, Wells Fargo gives us the option to pay the difference upfront to keep our payments the same or smaller.

Used to be when this happened I’d pay the difference so I could prepay more each month when I rounded the number up to a round number when writing the checks.  Also I like paying stuff early so I don’t have to worry about it later when I might have less money than I was expecting.

But we’re not currently doing any prepayment (since Paradise is expensive and I’m at half pay), not even the little rounding up prepayments that we did when we were just starting the mortgage.  It bothers my OCD a little bit not to write a round number on the check, but I’m getting used to it.

And because we’re spending more money than we’re taking in (not counting retirement savings) and because we have less than a year on the mortgage and there’s not even a full year left for the escrow, I decided to let them increase our monthly payment for the second time this year.

(Note also that that $812 or more will be the minimum average monthly cost of home ownership once we’re done with the mortgage not including utilities or repairs– home ownership isn’t free!)

Would you prefer to pay increases upfront or to amortize payment increases?


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