Tag Archives: money

Is Your Employer Really Matching Your Charitable Gifts?

I’m a big giver. Whenever a friend, family member or colleague is asking for support, I try my best to participate in some way. Typically, it’s through monetary donations, and I am happy to do it. It helps a cause that is close to someone, is tax deductible, and sometimes, companies match your donation, doubling your gift. However, in my experience, that last part wasn’t always the case.

One of my employers was huge on giving back. They were always touting corporate social responsibility and encouraging us to help and give back to others. One of the ways they did this was through corporate matching gifts. What are matching gifts you ask? They’re extensions of corporate philanthropy by which companies support employee’s charitable giving to a wide range of non-profits.

Every time my husband or I were asked to make a donation, I was pretty psyched that it would be doubled by my employer. It was free (and more!) money for so many well-deserving charities. There was definitely some extra leg work I had to do, like fill out some basic information and get a tax ID number for the cause I was supporting, but it was a small price to pay for free money in my opinion. It was only later that I found out my company wasn’t really matching any of my donations.

I did some investigating after a charity I was closely affiliated with told me they had no record of my company matched donations. I figured it must have been a mistake or maybe just slipped through the cracks, but sadly, it wasn’t. Turns out, every donation I made while on the company’s payroll was never matched. How could that have happened?

Well, apparently there was never really a formal process for matching donations at my company because, unfortunately, not a lot of people took advantage of the program, even though it was highly promoted. So while I kept submitting matches, no one was really doing anything about it. Thankfully, I had saved all the forms I filled out, was able to resubmit them, and the charities I donated to finally received my matching gifts.

If your company offers a matching gift program, take the extra steps to participate. It’s FREE money to support great causes and goes a long way. But, do your due diligence and make sure you receive documentation that your corporate matches were actually made. And if you’re company who matches gifts, first, kudos to you! More companies should be like you. Just ensure you have a streamlined process in place so everyone wins.

The Price of Being a Stay-At-Home-Mom

Seeing this headline, you’re probably thinking this post will be about how you lose one full salary by staying at home, or perhaps what you’re giving up of yourself to raise your children. Not even close. This is about much more money I think I spend because I stay home.

When I was working, I certainly spent money while on the clock. Online shopping, Starbucks runs, liquid lunches, happy hours (actually sounds kind of fun!). You working people know the drill. Once I traded in my paycheck to raise my kid, I figured I’d budget and probably be spending less given the fact that there wasn’t much to do during the day while running after a little one. Fast forward to almost three years later at this SAHM (stay-at-home-mom) gig and I probably spend more money every day than I did when I was working. Hear me out…

My daughter goes to a preschool program so I have about two hours to myself a day. In this time, I usually go to the gym and run errands that are easier to do without a small child in tow. There’s always a shit ton to do, not to mention the few times I decide to treat myself to a tea or pedicure. ShopRite, Target, Starbucks, CVS, dry cleaners. The list is endless, especially when holidays and birthdays roll around. And sometimes it’s just nice to get out and break up the monotony whether I’m alone or with my little one.

After my two hours are up, I pick up my daughter and more money goes out the window. We’re pretty resourceful and don’t often treat ourselves to lunches out or fancy mall shopping sprees, but we are superfans of Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks. My child eats munchkins and chocolate milk, so added to my $5 chai tea latte or ice tea, this all adds up throughout the week. But I am oblivious most times, because I just reload my DD or Starbucks app and it’s like the money just magically appeared for me to fuel up. Then we run some errands, let’s say I didn’t get to Target while she was in school, so we go together. My kid wants everything. And when I say no and she melts down, sometimes the $7 stuffed Minion is worth it to avoid me losing my mind and her losing her shit even more. But how many $7 Minions and other crap do I purchase to either appease her or simply because it puts the biggest smile on her face? It all adds up.

I guess with the holidays, and the amount of trips to Starbucks and Dunkin’ I have recently made, it’s become a little more apparent to me that my spending habits have changed, and possibly increased a little, sans paycheck, even though I’m just trolling the ‘burbs versus gallivanting though the pricey city. Who knew staying home could cost so much (insert deep thought, quote or mantra here)?

Lotto Fever

Lotto fever is on! In all my years of playing (and losing), I have never seen as much love for the lottery as I did today.

While I don’t expect to win the office pool I’m a part of,  off the individual tickets my husband and I bought, or from numbers that belong to my immediate family, I am loving the vibe the biggest Mega Millions jackpot in history is giving off.

I have stood on numerous lines waiting to buy tickets in both New York and New Jersey in hopes of winning the coveted $640+ million jackpot. I made friends at the bodega while waiting to get my numbers. I chatted more with the grocery clerk than I have all year discussing the madness. And I probably spoke to more people about winning the lotto and what I’d do with the money in my 1,000+ person New York City office than I have in the two years I have worked in the building.

At 11:05pm, I don’t expect to be calling my family telling them I won the lottery. And while I’ll be a little disappointed that I still have to go to work on Monday and won’t be buying a private plane to take me and my entourage on a celebratory vacation full of champagne and palm trees, I  am digging all the craziness, all the press, and all the comradery that’s been built because of this ridiculously large jackpot that one random person is likely to win in mere moments!

Here’s to more than half a billion! Good luck to us all! It only cost me like $60 a and a dream.

Are We Ever Truly Satisfied?

Are we ever really satisfied? It always seems like the closer we get to achieving success, greatness, or happiness, there is always more we’re looking to fulfill.

Maybe it’s because life was supposed to be a little easier than it has been for some of us. Weren’t we the generation that was going to have it all? Great jobs, 2.5 kids (what is it with that half kid – has anyone ever really understood that?), a house in the suburbs, lots of money and our best friends living right next door? I don’t know anyone in their late 20s or early 30s living that bundled fantasy right now, do you?

What I see today are friends struggling to have kids while MTV exploits pregnant 16-year-olds. Unemployment is through the roof (they’re not even hiring the unemployed anymore) and even when they tell you it’s getting better, it’s not, because who’s really getting ahead? And that house in the suburbs? It’s $16,000 in taxes and needs a complete makeover before you move in. Forget the beach house.

Yes, I sound like a cynic, I know. And I probably shouldn’t because I have a very, very lovely life. A life that I am thankful for each and every day. But I want something extraordinary, not just for me, but for everyone that surrounds me. I want those magnificent things we all deserve and have worked so hard for.  And while I don’t know exactly what those things might be right this second, I know it’s more than the hand some of us have been dealt.

So here’s to finding your satisfaction – whether it’s in your job, your quest for a new adventure, or even just to see those you love a little more. We all deserve it, so let’s figure out how to capture it and do it!

10 Friends and No Jobs. Yeah, I’m Serious.

I currently have 10 friends on the unemployment line. Can you believe that? On 10 fingers, I can count 10 people I know and hang out with who currently don’t have jobs. It’s really rather sickening.

What’s surprising about all of this is that each of us come from different industries. We’re publicists, graphic designers, customer service agents, teachers, marketers, sales professionals, bartenders, the list continues.

A handful of us have been without work for nearly a year or more. Others have just recently joined the ranks. It was never supposed to be this bad. No matter what we read, no matter how bad the economy got, it wasn’t supposed to be this many for this long.

Some of us are lucky enough to have spouses or significant others help us bear the burden of unemployment, but our family income has taken a severe hit. Others are being forced to move in with friends, downsize to smaller apartments, or borrow money from friends and family. What we all seem to have in common: we’re no longer getting ahead like we used to.

When you think about it, it’s amazing what unemployment can do to you. It takes away your money, your success, and your spirit. It beats you when you’re down and doesn’t give a shit that you’re already having a bad day. It doesn’t discriminate: it doesn’t care where you live, what color you are, or what your religious beliefs are. Bottom line, it sucks.

When 10 of your friends are in the same boat, sometimes it’s not so bad. You have each other and can understand what you’re all going through. But when 10 of your friends don’t have jobs and they need them, they want them, and they have tried so goddamn hard to get them for months on end, you start to wonder what the f*ck is going on?

Does Your Doc Owe You Money? I’d Bet My Co-Pay On It…

How many of you actually know what your explanation of benefits are? Sounds boring, I know. Until recently, I never really knew myself, primarily because I didn’t bother to pay attention to them. If something came in the mail that said I was not responsible for any payments and/or it was covered by my benefits, that was all I needed to know.

Now that I am paying my own health insurance out-of-pocket (with some government aid thanks to Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which reduces the cost of COBRA for the unemployed), I look at everything related to my health bills a little more closely, including my EOBs.

It has come to my attention in recent months, that I sometimes pay a co-pay at a doctor’s office when I actually don’t need to. I’m usually only shelling out about $10 to $20 a visit, depending on the type of doctor I am seeing and I’m ok with that, because when I receive my EOB, it tells me if I actually needed to pay a co-pay or any other charges. The EOB is a complete breakdown of what my doctor charges for the visit, what my insurance company pays the doctor, what I am responsible for, and what costs were not covered, if any. It is, as it states, an explanation of your benefits.

As these annoying pieces of paper kept arriving in my mailbox, I started realizing that I was paying doctors when I didn’t need to. Since there were lots of lines and numbers and insurance jargon I didn’t quite understand, I called my carrier to make sure I was understanding this correctly.

What I heard on the other end shocked me. My doctor(s) receives these same EOBs. They see that I am indeed, not responsible for these co-pays and by law, are supposed to refund me my co-pay upon receipt of this document. Let me just tell you, checks are not miraculously showing up in my mail. Are they showing up in yours?

So I have to call my doctor(s) and explain which isn’t a big deal; well, most of the time. Sometimes they want a copy of the EOB (which I can easily obtain through my online account), sometimes they already have it on file. However, there are times when I get the run around for a measly $10. One doctor made me wait four months for a refund. I was told my doctor was too busy with patients to approve this. My insurance company finally called and just like that, the check was in the mail the next day. I’ve already been refunded nearly $100 in the last 2 months in overpaid co-pays! As I mentioned, it is against the law for physicians to not refund you your money (if you are owed money) when they receive this document, because they are receiving an overpayment; they have already been paid by your carrier. That is what you pay for by having benefits (whether you are like me and pay for them out-of-pocket or you are on a company plan).

I urge you to take a few minutes out of your hectic day to go over your explanation of benefits. While it may seem like only a few dollars, it all adds up in the end. If 4,000 people aren’t refunded their $10 co-pay, that’s $40,000 lost to working Americans. And we all could use an extra few buck in our pockets, couldn’t we?