Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Tax Time!

We filed our taxes mid-January. Since we itemize, the actual paperwork wasn't submitted until February 14th. After waiting for what seemed like forever, we finally received our federal tax return. Thanks to having a child in 2010, it was the biggest return we've ever received. But we're not getting to enjoy any of it. Our state refund won't be in for several more weeks (our state is a mess), but that's already spent paying off the remainder of the childrens hospital bills.

Once again Kaiser screwed us over with the hospital visit my son had for his GI tract/scan. They paid less than 10% of the bill, so we're stuck with the balance. I thought it was just one bill, then more kept coming and coming. There are separate bills for radiology, diagnostics, lab work, etc. I think we have six separate bills. And it's taking a nice chunk of our return. I was also able to pay off two credit cards. The rest of the return is being used to replenish our savings account that took a severe hit when our son was born. Damn you crappy insurance companies!!!

I'm happy to report that we're with a new insurance company this year. Although it hasn't been any less painful than Kaiser, considering the rates have skyrocketed. Our copays have more than doubled, ER visits tripled, my ob/gyn is considered a "specialist" (wtf) and I'm only allowed to get my prescriptions via the mail, not a local pharmacy - again, wtf? Sucks, but whatever. Oh and the actual premiums suck. My husbands paychecks are taking a HUGE hit now. A gigantic, painful, stressful chunk of money is taken away every month. This has thrown our budget completely off and I need to figure out how to rework it.

But, other than that, things are good. We've spoken with a lawyer regarding our housing situation (unsafe area, owe 3 times it's worth, can't even rent to cover mortgage payment) and received surprising advice. Now we just need to sit down, talk it over and make a decision. The problem is we rarely have time to sit down and talk these days! Baby keeps us busy.

I'm hoping 2011 brings about some positive changes. It would be nice for things to go smoothly for once! In the meantime I'm going to change this place up, because I can't think of another domain name that hasn't been taken, ugh. Finance + recaps perhaps. :)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Tis The Season!

In my previous post I blogged about Shutterfly personalized Christmas cards. Well I received my special code for the free 50 cards for blogging about them and wanted to post my review! We also went and had pictures of my son done at JCPenney Portrait Studio and I'll post a review on that experience as well.

I'll start with JCPenney, because we ended up using the pictures from that session on our Christmas cards. I went in on Sunday the 21st to schedule an appointment and ask about the portrait packages they offered. EXPENSIVE!! Then the lady informed me that they had $3.99 sheets as well: for wallets, 8x10, 5x7 and 4x6 images. Perfect. Our appointment was scheduled for Wednesday the 24th at 6:30pm.

With a four month old, timing is everything. I cannot stress this enough. I had to schedule it an hour after his feeding, so he had time to digest and was in his "happy hour" as we like to call it. 6:30pm was that perfect timing.

Before we left the house I printed a coupon directly off their website for 50% off my entire portrait purchase, plus free sitting fee and free 8x10! The expiration date wasn't until November 30th. We arrived early at 6:20pm, because I planned to change him right before the appointment, to avoid any last minute drool/spit up drama. Got him changed and began the wait at 6:30pm. 15 Minutes passed. 30 Minutes passed. Still waiting. Baby is getting antsy at this point. 45 Minutes passed, still waiting. Finally, at 7:28pm they took us back.

I was a bit shocked at how gross the white floor drop was. It was badly stained and I couldn't believe they were using it for portraits. The photographer was fantastic. He got the absolute best smiles out of my son and the entire photographing experience went very well. I also didn't feel too rushed with it, which was nice.

After that we went back into the waiting area to meet with the lady and choose our pictures. This was the same lady that told me about the $3.99 sheets when I made the appointment three days before. As we went through and selected the images I asked "how much is that?" and every single answer was "$3.99 a sheet". She did not know we had a coupon at that point, nor did she said the $3.99 a sheet was a special.

We select our images: 10 sheets of wallets/5x7s, 1 8x10 and 1 20x24. I calculated this to be approximately $19.95 for all the sheets and $55.00 for the 20x24. For a grand total of $74.95 before tax. When the lady took my coupon, the code wouldn't work. It came up expired. Which was weird, since I had printed it right before the appointment, directly from their website and it said "Expires 11/30/10". But she said she had another code to use and put that in instead.

My son was getting very fussy at this point. It was nearing his feeding and we didn't have a bottle on us. So while I was trying to calm the fussy kid, my husband went up and paid. On the way out I read the receipt. $112. WHAT?!?! That just did not add up at all. Of course they don't provide an itemized receipt either.

My husband went back to get an itemized receipt. All of the sheets rang up $9.99 and with my 50% off coupon were $4.99 each. So where on earth did the $3.99 come from?! Needless to say I was very unhappy about this and felt completely misled. We pick up our pictures December 3rd and I will bring it up again. I would like my $37.00 back.

The very next day our photos were available on their website. I was able to save them and go ahead and create our Shutterfly Christmas cards! The process was simple, but you had to be careful to only get the exact ones they specified with the free code. But there was still a great variety.

I was worried about envelopes. I couldn't find anywhere that said whether or not they came with envelopes. I ended up with 50 5x7 flat cards in 5 different designs. Then I went to check out. Shipping was $9.95!! That was a bit of a shock. I was disappointed in that, since the blog-for-this-and-get-them-FREE insinuated shipping was covered as well. I found a code for discounted shipping, but was not allowed to combine it with the free 50 cards code. Oh well. I bought them anyway.

They arrived via UPS Ground within 3 days and they are amazing! Great quality cardstock. And they came with 50 envelopes! Overall I'm happy with the free cards. Shipping was quite high in my opinion, but in the end, was well worth it. I'll post scans of the cards in a few weeks. Don't want to ruin it for friends and family yet!

Here are a few of our JCPenney portraits though! And surprisingly, the grossly stained white backdrop looks great in the pictures. I guess lighting IS everything!

The photographer had my husband partially dress up at Santa to hold our son for a few shots. As you can see, this did not go over so well! However, he did fantastic when he went to visit the real Santa!!