It's almost too much to wrap my head around now.
When I learned earlier this week that I may not get an offer of a permanent job (still no decision from the company, but they've changed the job description, which no longer fits me to a T), I started getting very anxious. The thought of returning to a long bout of being broke and out of work was not a comforting one. So I did what I do best. I set to work taking another look at my tightest of Tightwad Budgets, looking to see what my current expenses are, what could be minimized, etc. Because the more in control of my situation I am, the less fearful I feel.
I called my homeowner's insurance carrier and increased the deductible again, this time from $2,500 to $5,000, which saved me about $60.
I went online and checked current electric prices and switched again, from Public Power to ConEd, reducing my price per kilowatt from .0999 to .0849. Perhaps it will make some noticeable difference. The lower price is locked in for a year.
I learned how sneaky electric suppliers can be after switching the 1st time. When I switched to Public Power, they had a lower price than the default supplier, but that lower price only held for 3 months, and then they bumped me to a higher price, counting on the fact that most people won't take the trouble to switch electric suppliers more than once. Even though there's no charge to do so. Well, I took the trouble!
So my total monthly minimum expenses seem to be in the range of $2,291. I mean, that's REALLY minimum. Yes, that includes my mortgage and property taxes. Compare this to my more normal monthly expenses of $3,600.
Here is my ranked list of estimated 2011 minimal monthly expenses, based on current data:
Mortgage and property taxes: $1,146
Heating oil: $65
Sewer (usage and loan): $60
Gas for car: $57
Homeowners insurance: $56
Phone and Internet: $44
Car maintenance $38
Car insurance $35
Cable TV: $18
Borough taxes $14
Car tax: $7
Dump sticker: $7
Not covered: Health care out of pocket, home maintenance, chimney cleaning, furnace cleaning, mortgage prepayments, retirement savings, dining out, entertainment, clothing, Netflix, gifts, bird seed.
It's totally ironic that I'll be paying $444 a month for health insurance, yet I DON'T INTEND to use it at all. Why? Becus the plan has a $1500 deductible, so if I used it for a few doctor's visits or whatever, I'd be paying the whole bill anyway for most of the year. If I end up being out of work for say, another 6 months, paying the deductible would all be for nothing becus then I'd probably have to satisfy a whole new deductible with a brand new plan. So my strategy is, don't use it at all.
But keeping the health insurance accomplishes 3 important things I can't do without:
1. It ensures that when I do get a permanent job, the health insurer can't refuse to cover my pre-existing health problem (MS) for a year, or charge exorbitant fees to do so. Chalk this convoluted way things are to our screwed-up health insurance system.
2. It provides coverage in the event of unexpected, catastrophic health problem like surgery or something that would cost much, much more if I were uninsured.
3. It ensures that I can continue to fill my one prescription, the med I take for the MS.
Yesterday I called the employment agency that's paying my paychecks now and asked them what the monthly bill would be for my health care under COBRA. You might say I was pleasantly surprised, because since the agency is too cheap to contribute anything to employees' health care and I pay the full expense already ($425 a month), there would be no increase for COBRA, save for a 2% administration charge.
Still, that's a lot more than the $178 I was paying with the COBRA subsidy.
So, after doing all this number-crunching I felt like things were still "doable," even with the spike in my health insurance costs.
That is, until I reexamined my state's formula for calculating unemployment benefits. I have 2 key questions in my mind about which of 2 formulas would apply to me; maybe I'll call the dept of labor next week to try to get some answers.
Question 1: If I was collecting unemployment in September and then started this temporary job, worked the temp job (full-time) for 3.5 months and now it looks like the job will end 12/31 and I want to apply for unemployment again, do they just reopen my old claim, since I hadn't used up all the money, or will it be considered a new claim?
Dido, I actually think it would be much better if they considered it reopening the existing claim, because then I could expect to get the weekly benefit I got before, about $544 a week. (CT is an expensive place to live.) I already know I could live on that, even with the higher health insurance costs.
But if they treat it as a new claim, then my Question #2 is, Which formula would they use to calculate my weekly benefit rate?
I see from the DOL website there is the "standard" formula which takes the highest average earnings from the 1st 4 of 5 calendar quarters prior to the quarter you file the claim in. In other words, if I file the claim sometime in January, I can't use earnings from the 4th quarter of 2010 to calculate my benefit. I have to use the 4th quarter of 09 and the 1st, 2nd and 3rd quarters of 2010. You'd calculate the average of the 2 highest earning quarters, then divide by 26.
The problem with this is that I didn't work at all in the 4th quarter of 09 or 1st quarter of 2010. I worked for the census burea in the 2nd quarter and then for the census bureau AND the temporary job in the 3rd quarter. But the census was a p/t job and it all works out to a weekly benefit of just $162 a week.
However, the website says that when you can't establish eligibility using the basic formula, you are then allowed to use their alternate formula, which is using the 4 calendar quarters immediately preceding the quarter you file a claim. This would make a HUGE difference in my case becus it was in the 4th quarter that I worked this temp job making very good money, and my weekly benefit would be $554, not $162.
I am feeling very, very nervous about this.
As for the 2nd job I learned about at the company I'm working at now, I did apply but haven't heard anything yet. The guy i work with who told me about it did put in a good word for me, I know.
There was another option that occurred to me. If the company cannot find a candidate who has both the skills they're looking for (strong writer with technical background) and if they liked me, but didn't think they'd have enough work to keep me busy on a full-time basis, I was thinking I could suggest maybe we could work out a 20 or 30 hour work week with commensurately lower pay.
There's 2 problems with that. One, I think the 1st thought they'd have is oh, she wouldn't want to stay here long at the lower pay and as soon as she had an opportunity, she'd find something else. And two, i don't want them to think I'm just desperate for a job, because that would be a turnoff to the employer.
Taking a lower salary of say $40 or 60K would be a lot less than I'd get f/t, but heck, if i can make it work on unemployment benefits i can make $40K or $60K work, for a time.
So I don't know if i should suggest this or not. I know i can't just freelance for them as needed, becus i had to sign an agreement with the employment agency saying I wouldn't work for the company for one year. This is standard, of course.
Unemployment the 2nd time around: lots of unanswered questions