Why I Bought Insulin On Craigslist: Tip-of-the-Day #335

My cat is diabetic. She was diagnosed about two and a half years ago and because she is a cat, her meds aren't covered by health insurance. The out-of-pocket on insulin ranges from $350 to $480+. It is NOT cheap!

The first time I bought her insulin I purchased a vial and it lasted for several months but only has an FDA-approved shelf life of 28 days. Humans can get through a vial in 28 days but for a cat receiving 1-3 units a day, there's no way to burn through it all and it becomes a very expensive proposition very quickly.

Then I discovered the insulin cartridges, or "pens," that come in a box of five. I want to say I dropped @$400 on that at Target and it lasted me a long time (nearly two years). That's because the refrigerated pens can last for years and while the unrefrigerated pens are only "good" for 28 days, they typically last much longer. Insulin is much heartier than some may think.

Fast forward to why I'm writing this post. I just used up my last pen from the expensive box and I was faced with two very real issues:

  1. I didn't have a prescription for a refill which would mean a vet visit (ugh). 
  2. My cat is 19 years old and I really don't know how much more time I'll have with her. :(
I decided to venture down a less prudent path (who, me?) and explore the black market for insulin. I had no idea what I would find, but sure enough, I found a pretty normal-sounding woman on Craigslist who lives in Stockton and was/is selling her pens because she'd recently switched to a different format (brand, size, whatever). She was willing to send me the box of five for $100 (that's 75% off retail) and ship them on ice. I hesitated for all of a minute before deciding to go for it.

I am intimate enough with insulin now to know "good" from "bad" (the color is off, the smell is off, there are clumps in the fluid, etc.) and for that price I was certainly willing to give it a go. I used PayPal to place my order (insured if anything went south) and I received the product in two days. It was sealed, the expiration reasonable (2019) and the product in perfect shape.

Obviously I may not have thrown caution to the wind if we'd been talking about administering this to my child - but I would have used it on myself for sure. I tightly monitor my cat's BGL each morning before I administer any insulin, and I was able to tell right away that the insulin was good and she was responding as she always had.

Just throwing this out there for anyone else struggling to keep up with the cost of living (and living with multiple geriatric pets). There are options for procuring meds for less and most people are good people and won't screw you over. Note: I also checked pharmacies in Canada which sell the product for less and some don't require a prescription. Ping me if you need more information on this. I can float you my contact if you need help now. Good luck!

Why Meal Kits Make Sense (For Me): Tip-of-the-Day #334

About four months ago I decided that my dinner rut was taking a toll on the way I was feeling about food. I found myself cooking the same things (with the same spices and flavor profiles) all the time and I nearly always used the same kinds of meats and veggies. BO-ring.

I saw an ad for Hello Fresh and looked into it. It sounded interesting. For me, the price was certainly right ($10 per meal) but equally important, the foods looked easy to prepare and delicious. I decided to give it a try.

The first couple of weeks I was receiving the classic box, which includes meat and seafood. I decided (unrelated to the really good food I was making with Hello Fresh) to try and wean myself off of meat and stick to a mostly vegetarian/pescatarian lifestyle. So, I changed my selection from "Classic" to "Vegetarian." Five months later and I've never looked back! For the first time in my life I am willing to follow a recipe! I have no idea why I was so recipe-averse before, but reading a recipe is easy and guarantees the outcome of your meal. I've combined foods I'd never considered combining, tried spices I don't keep in my spice rack, and found myself snacking post-dinner MUCH LESS because the meals I'm making are so fulfilling.

I have spoken so highly of this service that four of my colleagues at work are now using Hello Fresh! That said, there are other, similar services out there. I just know that my experience with Hello Fresh has been solid and the introductory offer to get started is downright fantastic. You can get $40 off your first week too, bringing the cost down to $20 for six meals!

For those of us who work or have families or both, a meal kit service is great for so many reasons. In summary:

  1. You'll get variety you never pursued on your own
  2. Everything you need to cook each meal is included in your box - there's no grocery shopping involved
  3. You spend far less per meal than you would on take-out or even grocery shopping (the way I shopped anyway!)
  4. Every meal can be prepared in 30 mins or less
  5. Recipes are easy to follow and even come with wine pairing suggestions!

I've heard a few folks squawk about the excessive packaging in each box, but honestly, I see that Hello Fresh is trying to minimize their footprint and each week there are improvements to make the packaging more eco-friendly.

If you find yourself in the same rut I was in, give a meal kit service a try. I think you'll love it!

Top Ten Reasons to Volunteer: Tip-of-the-Day #333

There are many reasons to volunteer. I can tell you that I do it because I know I'm supporting a cause I'm passionate about and that animals are actually finding homes because of the work I do with Jake's Place Cat Rescue. I did think this "top ten reasons to volunteer" round up was helpful however, so I'm spreading the love.
  1. It's good for your health! Studies have found that when you stop thinking about your own problems and focus on someone other than yourself, your stress levels start to decrease, your immune system is strengthened and your overall sense of life satisfaction increases.
  2. It's great for your career! It helps you create a positive impression, makes you more innovative, creative and gives you a range of useful skills.
  3. You can learn new skills! Employers love a candidate with a range of soft skills and luckily, volunteering gives you plenty of those. 
  4. Get real-world experience! Another amazing motivator for volunteering is the insightful, real-world experiences that volunteers gain in the field. 
  5. Make a difference. Volunteering, at home or abroad, gives you the chance to vote every day about the kind of community and world you want to live in. It gives you the opportunity to be apart of something bigger than yourself and use your civic responsibility for the greater good.
  6. Give back to a cause you believe in. Your reason for volunteering should begin where your passions lie. Let your love for animals, teaching or healthcare create positive change in the world.
  7. Change/save a life. Your actions, whether big or small will have an impact on someone’s life (in my case, cats.)
  8. Make real connections. Volunteering lets you meet people from all walks of life. It gives you the chance to form real relationships that can have a lasting impact on your life. You could meet your new best friend, future business partner or have a conversation that sparks a real change in your life.
  9. Gain a whole new perspective. This shift in perspective opens your mind to what is truly important, puts to bed age-old stereotypes and shows you how small your problems are in the grand scheme of things.
  10. Get inspired. You can use volunteering as a reason to get out of old routine and help you figure out what your next steps will be. Also good if your job is dull and you need stimulation outside of the nine to five.

If you live in the Bay Area and want to foster or adopt a cat from my organization, check out www.jakesplacecatrescue.org. =^..^-=

Awesome Life Hacks: Tip-of-the-Day #332

I picked this list up from Bright Side and thought it worthy enough to pass along. My favorites are 4, 6 and 7. Check them out!
  1. Cooking meat: Add some crushed garlic to any ground beef, pork, turkey, etc. before cooking and let it sit for a bit in the fridge. The flavor of the meat is enhanced and will taste amazing.
  2. Sore throat: Drink hot milk with cardamom and any inflammation and soreness in your throat will disappear a whole lot faster.
  3. Light a fire: If you need to light a campfire fast, you can use potato chips. They burn better than lighter fluid, and will burn even when firewood is damp!
  4. Burned: If you rub the affected area with some toothpaste, a burn or sting on your skin will hurt a lot less and pass much quicker.
  5. Cooking potatoes: Potatoes will boil quicker if you add a little butter to the saucepan.
  6. How fresh are your eggs?: Drop an egg into some cold water so that it’s completely submerged, a fresh egg will sink to the bottom. The ones that have gone bad will float to the surface.
  7. Baking: You can replace eggs with bananas when making the dough for cookies or a pie. Half a banana is roughly equal to one egg.
  8. Clean up glue: Removing a glue stain from glass can be done using ordinary household vegetable oil. Just smear some oil on the affected area, leave for ten minutes, then wipe with a paper towel.
  9. Boiling beans: If you forget to soak your beans, just boil them in unsalted water, adding a tablespoon of cold water every 7-10 minutes. That way they’ll be ready with no trouble at all.
  10. Removing ink or paint from clothing: Acetone will help with this problem. It needs to be wiped on the affected area, then rubbed with a bit of baking soda.
  11. Broken egg?: You can still make use of a broken egg. Just boil it as normal, and then it can be used for salads or sandwiches.
  12. Wet shoes: The trick is to use salt. Heat it up in a frying pan (or microwave), sprinkle it inside a sock, and then place the sock inside the wet shoe. If the moisture doesn’t disappear in a certain amount of time, just put in a new sock. Your shoes will be dry in no time at all!
  13. Boil milk faster: Milk is guaranteed to boil faster if you add a pinch of sugar.
  14. Easily grate cheese: Before you start trying to grate some hard cheese, smear some vegetable oil on the grater. The cheese won’t get stuck together, and the grater itself becomes easier to wash!
  15. Odor control: It’s easy to get rid of bad smells in the kitchen. Pour one tablespoon of ordinary vinegar into a frying pan and heat until it evaporates.
  16. Breaking in new shoes: Put on some thick socks, and then really stretch the shoes onto your feet. While wearing them like this, heat the shoes with a hair dryer for about 10 minutes.
  17. Get rid of a headache: You can ease the pain of a throbbing headache if you rub a slice of lemon on your forehead. It sounds crazy, but the aroma of citrus fruit can really calm you down!
  18. Pick up tiny shards of broken glass: You can gather up even the smallest bits of broken glass by using a waxy candlestick.
  19. Calm down quickly: If you need to calm yourself down very quickly, press down on the patch of skin between your nose and your lips, using your thumb, for three seconds. This can help even if you think you’re having a nervous breakdown!

Full article here: http://brightside.me/article/20-life-tips-which-will-completely-change-the-way-you-look-at-ordinary-things-23655/ 

Explore Summer Camp Tax Breaks: Tip-of-the-Day #331

When I was kid, and it was summer break, I looked for any excuse to stay home and play Atari. I didn’t want to go to camp. That felt like work! I wanted to hang with my friends, make cookie dough and eat it raw, and choreograph dance routines to “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” in my front yard. Ahhhh, summer. But these days, I’ve learned from my sister that her kid and all of her kid’s friends are in day camp ALL SUMMER LONG.

It's not camp like we (in our forties) remember it…it’s camp with themes like “Pirates and Princesses”, “Pop Star Party!” and “Idol Performance Camp”. Sounds fantastic, right?? Only hitch is that it don’t come cheap. These camps are upwards of $100 a day! For parents who are already scraping to cover the cost of school, school supplies, babysitters, birthday parties, etc. this added expense is almost impossible. That said, I came across this article and quickly forwarded it to my sis.

Summer camp may be tax deductible!!

Here’s the 4-1-1 (straight from the tax experts at TurboTax):

  1. If you send your kids away to the mountains for a week, you won’t get a tax deduction. BUT, send ‘em away for the day, and now you are talking tax savings in the form of the Child and Dependent Care Credit, as long as your child is under the age of 13.
  2. Child and Dependent Care Credit is designed to enable you (the parent) to work or go to school, so if you have a spouse at home to care for the kids, then no deduction for camp. But if you are single, or you and your spouse both work, cha-ching, you’ll qualify for the tax credit.
  3. Sending the kids into the backyard to camp out doesn’t qualify as camp. You have to make payment for camp to a real institution or person, and you must include their address and identifying number on your tax return.
  4. Taking the kids to the camp location won’t qualify for the credit. But if the cost of transportation to and from camp is included in the fees, and the camp picks up and delivers, sweet – that qualifies for the credit.

So now that you qualify, what is the credit worth? To begin, tax credits are more valuable that tax deductions, since credits reduce your tax bill dollar for dollar, so the tax savings add up quickly. You can take a Child and Dependent Care Credit for up to 35% of $3,000 in child care and camp costs for one child or $6,000 for two or more children, depending on your income level. That can mean a tax credit of up to $1,050 for one child and $2,100 for two or more children.

I’m thinking my sis is going to be awfully glad she read this…