This page documents my efforts to pay for dental work (and eyeglasses) for myself and my husband. The appointments (and payments) for this work began on October 19th, 2018. Appointments are ongoing, but the entire thing was completely paid for as of September 1st, 2019.
Background: in the summer of 2018, our toddler had two emergency room visits that (though he was fine and healthy afterward) filled up the deductible on our high-deductible health plan. So in September of 2018, I decided to make all the doctors’ appointments! Including eye doctor and dentist too, while we were at it. But the dentist appointments in particular came with bad news: work needed in both our mouths, including adult metal braces for each of us, and no adult orthodontic coverage on our dental plan whatsoever.
So here’s how much all of that cost us, and how we paid for it all in less than a year:
Table of Contents
All costs here represent our “out of pocket” expenses, after insurance has already paid (or declined to pay, or not covered) their portion.
- Eye exam
- New glasses from eye doctor (first ever prescription)
- New sunglasses & backup glasses from Zenni Optical
- Eye exam
- New glasses (new prescription)
- New sunglasses & backup glasses from Zenni Optical
Vision Total: $521.50
- Filling and crown
- Another filling and wisdom tooth extraction #1
- Prescription drugs for wisdom tooth extraction #1
- Consultation #1 for remaining wisdom teeth (not free)
- Consultation #2 for remaining wisdom teeth (free)
- Wisdom teeth extraction (3 teeth)
- Prescription drugs for remaining wisdom teeth extractions
Root canal and crown(ended up not needing this, THANK GOODNESS)
- Metal braces and retainers
- Prescription drugs for braces and extractions
- 3 teeth extracted for braces (yes, if you are keeping count, that’s seven teeth extracted total)
Root canal and crown(ended up not needing this, THANK GOODNESS)
- Metal braces and retainers
Dental Total (high end): $12,126.89
These costs aren’t bills that have to be paid necessarily, but are real costs incurred because we are missing work and we have no PTO (paid time off) through work, or child care so that the other one of us can be working while one is at an appointment.
Total Hidden Costs Estimate: $1,787.50
(This is an estimate because appointments for the braces are still ongoing, so we’re still incurring these costs as we go!)
Total Costs: $12,648.39 (+$1,787.50 hidden cost)
I choose not to include the hidden costs in the total because they’re very hard to account for. And in terms of “paying” the hidden cost, mostly we’ve just eaten it, as in, the paychecks are a bit smaller and we move on. Sometimes we’ve been able to move our schedules around to not “miss” work, but who’s to say we wouldn’t have worked extra, even earned overtime that week if not for the appointment? In fact, because of overtime, the hidden cost number may be slightly lower than reality, but I’m willing to just leave it at this.
How We Paid That $12,648.39 in 11 Months
[Note: I’m updating this dashboard late at night, so the all following is from way back in January. COMING SOON!]
So, what am I doing to pay this behemoth bill? Lots of things! And they’re all documented here (imagine that!):
Paid Off Student Loan (-$984 cash, +$102.71 in monthly cash flow)
Err… this seems like a bad idea, right? Spending $1,000 in cash right when I need $10k+? But freeing myself up from one of my monthly payments is the reason I did it. Since I will very likely put the braces on 0% interest financing, I will need some way to make the monthly payments and then ultimately pay off that balance. The $1000 I used to pay off the loan could have bought me less than 20% of the braces, but instead it will buy me nearly half the monthly payment of the braces, and $16 in saved interest on the student loan (hence “-$984” when I made a $1,000 payment!).
Credit Card Rewards (+$35.91 cash)
This is simply by being smart about how I make payments for all of the costs of this stuff. So far, I’ve just been putting everything on a 2% cashback card (except the prescription drugs, which I put on a card that gets 2.5% back at grocery stores, but that’s a negligible difference so far).
For future payments, I will probably do some “credit card bonus churning,” especially for big things like the braces. This could earn me $500 or even $1000 in bonuses with a single transaction. (I’ve done it before, like when my child was born and I had $7,500 in out-of-pocket costs. I’ve ridden in this rodeo before, you see!)
Selling Stuff (+$85.40 cash)
I’ve got video games to list on eBay (or to take to eStarland), baby stuff to list on Facebook Marketplace, and some other odds and ends that I can hopefully move on some service or another.
Gifts (+$1,125 cash)
I’m not going to “out” gift sources here, but I’m incredibly grateful to have some help in this. In general, it’s my intention to put any cash gifts I receive toward this until it’s paid for, whether gift-givers tell me the money is for this purpose or not.
Cutting Expenses (+$10.99 in monthly cash flow)
Netflix was once necessary for my side hustle, but I declined new work from that client, so it’s time to cancel. Hardly any time to watch with all this other hustling, anyway!
Day Job (+$4,269.59 cash)
Overtime + a yearly bonus (that we were not expecting). Unfortunately, the season for mad overtime is over, so this category probably won’t grow by much more (unless this dental ordeal lasts through Christmas 2019).
Cash: $4,531.90 out of $10,487.82 (43.2%)
Monthly cash flow: $137.15 out of ?
How You Can Help
Hey, you’re here, you must at least care in a voyeuristic way, if nothing else! I’m not expecting charity from anyone (though some relatives have been able to give monetary gifts, for which I am very grateful), so this is not going to include a link to my PayPal or a GoFundMe. Rather, these are win-win ways that you can help me earn money for the Progress section, while also helping yourself and your own financial situation.
Disclosure: the following links are affiliate links (links where, if you click and then take a certain action, such as making a purchase or signing up for a service, I may receive compensation). All affiliate links on this page and on this site follow my “family rule:” if I would recommend the good or service to one of my family members, I will get an affiliate link for it. If I wouldn’t recommend it to a family member, I will not share affiliate links to it. It’s that simple – blog readers are my family, and I treat you as such.
Clarity Money – a free app for Android and iOS that acts as a powerful money dashboard that lets you see what’s going on in all of your accounts. I earn a small commission for each person who registers for the app through this.
Personal Capital – another free app, this one for desktop (web), Android, and iOS. (I use the web version.) Whereas Clarity Money is a money dashboard, Personal Capital is an investment dashboard with powerful forecasting tools that previously you couldn’t get access to without going through a financial planner. Plus, if you join Personal Capital and link an investment account with $1,000 or more in it (don’t worry, they can’t touch the money), you and I each get a $20 Amazon gift card. I’ll use mine to buy stuff like toothpaste, floss, and mouthwash to keep these costs from increasing even more. I’m not even kidding. Obviously I need these things, and I buy them through Amazon’s Subscribe and Save program. Totally serious.
Dashlane – are you using a password manager, or are you reusing passwords from site to site? If it’s the latter, OMG SHTAP. Seriously. Dashlane is free and I don’t even really care that I get $2 if you sign up for a free account, I just want you to stop reusing passwords across sites and get a password manager. Honestly, you can go sign up for LastPass instead, for which I get “a free month of Premium” if you sign up (which is worth $1), if you like. I don’t care which you pick, I would just sleep better at night knowing you are not reusing passwords across sites anymore.
esurance – have you shopped around lately to see if you could be getting a better deal on car insurance? Protip: if you haven’t done it since your last birthday, it’s time to do it again. Age cutoffs for discounted rates can vary, so you should shop around after every birthday to see if you suddenly qualify for some company or other’s deal. Get a free quote with esurance and I earn a commission.
Bank account opening bonuses: NetSpend and SmartyPig. And honestly, while you’re here, there’s also Capital One 360 (I don’t get a commission for that one, but I can’t help but tell you about it anyway, because it’s my favorite bank account ever and you could get $25 for opening the best bank account ever and I just can’t help but tell you that). You can pay no fees on these accounts and earn the bonuses plus interest so I highly, highly recommend getting your free money!
Discover IT Credit Card – I use this card all the time, and highly recommend it. It gives 5% cash back on certain categories, which rotate every 3 months. But also, that cash back is doubled (10%!) during the first year you have the card. And that cash back doubling includes the $50 in cash back you get for opening the card with my link. I used the double cash back in the Amazon category (combined with an Amazon baby registery discount hack) a few years ago to score 23.5% off baby stuff that we needed anyway. I still use the card to this day when the categories are things I was going to buy anyway, and there’s no annual fee, so it costs me nothing. Also, if you redeem the rewards for gift cards, you can get an additional 10% bonus on the rewards redemption in a lot of cases. I use this to get gas gift cards to fill up my car, and I seriously haven’t paid out of pocket for gas in months.
Shell Fuel Rewards – speaking of gassing up my car, if you use Shell stations at all, you need to join Shell Fuel Rewards. It’s free, and just by swiping the card (or putting in your card code from the app) you get 3 cents off every gallon. No friggin brainer. If you sign up, I get 25 cents off each gallon on my next fill-up and that’s just insane. That’ll help my gas cards go further so that I have more money to put toward the dental stuff!
Zenni Optical – were you wondering during the Costs section up above how my husband and I are getting prescription sunglasses and backup glasses for under $30 per person? Zenni is the answer. These glasses are cheap and awesome. My husband has been getting them for years, and honestly, as toddler parents, we can’t have enough cheap backup glasses around. Now that I’ve got prescription eyewear as well, I’m obviously in on this, too. Use my link, sign up for their newsletter to get an additional 10% off, and then start shopping prescription glasses that seriously cost just $6.95 and up. That’s including the lenses. I guess they’re actually $6.26 and up, with the 10% off coupon. You’re welcome.
TurboTax – I have used TurboTax to file my taxes every year except once (when I thought it would be a good idea to use lots of different tax services to review for this blog, I guess?), and I looooove doing my taxes with it. I’m not kidding. Try TurboTax for free through my link, and if you end up loving it as much as I do, you only have to pay when you go to file (and it should be 20% off if you used my link!). And filing could even be free for you, if you make under a certain amount! If you end up filing through TurboTax, I get a $10 Amazon gift card.
Couchsurfing – if you’ve even ever considered the idea of exploring the possibility of staying with strangers for free while traveling, you should sign up for Couchsurfing. It’s free to sign up, you might get to save a bunch on travel expenses and make new friends! And if you decide to take the extra step and get “verified” (cost: $60) within 30 days of signing up, I will earn a $15 commission.
Amazon – any time you go to buy something from Amazon, come back here and click this link to get to Amazon, first. It doesn’t cost you anything extra, and I earn a small (4%-6%) commission on most items. You can also check out my reviews of Amazon Fresh, Amazon Prime Now, and Amazon Pantry. Don’t buy anything you don’t need on my account, but do consider using the link when you’re going to buy something you need anyway.
Cashback: BeFrugal, Ebates, and Ibotta. If you’re not using these to get free cash back on your purchases, you really ought to be. For all three of these services, you get cash back for purchases made through the app or website, plus a bonus just for signing up with my link (bonus is $5-$10 for each service). I also get a bonus when you sign up and earn your first cash back on a purchase. Again, don’t go buying anything you don’t need, but honestly, you could be earning extra cash back at pretty much everywhere (including most grocery stores) through these apps, so there’s plenty you do need that you should be earning cash back on!
Republic Wireless – I was paying more than $70 per month on just 1 gig of data and phone service from Verizon. That doesn’t include the cost of the phone, or any texting on my plan. Seriously. When my contract was finally up, I switched to Republic and now I pay $22.73/month for 1gig of data, and I can get additional gigs for just $5 whenever I need them. Oh, and it includes texting, because lol, I can’t believe I was paying over $70/month not even including texting lololololol what.
Hungry Harvest – I’ll let pictures (okay, my Instagram) tell the story on this one:
View this post on Instagram
It's harvest day again! And it includes portobello mushrooms, grapes, beets (with the greens, which I can't wait to sauté!), carrots (with their greens as well, which I'll probably turn into a pesto), onions, baby broccoli (broccolini), minneola tangelos (cross between a grapefruit and a tangerine), potatoes, romanesco, and spinach! ???????? This is all fresh, organic "rescued" produce, which means it is perfectly edible but was rejected by supermarkets for one reason or another (usually because they over-ordered!). In addition to reducing food waste, every Harvest closes gaps in food access by supporting reduced-cost produce in SNAP Markets & donations to local hunger-solving organizations. This delivery cost me $42.73 including the customization fee and the extra produce I selected. I do the Full Organic Harvest every two weeks. They offer doorstep delivery throughout Maryland, Washington, DC, Virginia, Greater Philadelphia, Southern New Jersey, Northern Delaware, South Florida, The Triangle Area in North Carolina and Detroit, Michigan. If you're in one of these areas, check out their offerings at hungryharvest.net. Use code STEPHANIEKIBLER and you and I will both get $5 off! http://hharvest.net/m5d7GGk
Student Loan Refinancing: I have a post on this that you should read, first. But if you refinance through Credible, please use my link (and enjoy your own $200 bonus in the process!). You can also try checking LendKey to see if they have better rates. But if you find that like me, traditional refinancing doesn’t work for you, you could try “refinancing” your loans onto a 0% interest credit card like I did, using a service like Plastiq.
FlexOffers – if you’re a fellow blogger looking at this list and going “how does she have so many affiliate links? I don’t have this many affiliate links!” Then you may not yet be signed up for FlexOffers. I really like their affiliate link offerings (clearly), and you should have them in your tool belt if you’re doing any affiliate marketing at all.
Wanna talk about the stuff on this page? There’s already an ongoing conversation happening on Twitter about all this, so that’s where I think the discussion should continue. Hit me up @Stephonee if you have questions, comments, or thoughts about my situation, my progress, or anything else at all, really.