In the fall of 2004, we found out that J needed a replacement for the bridge that makes up his front teeth. He’s had a bridge since a mountain biking accident in college, and after 10 years, part of it was giving out. He’s a trooper, and tried to make the old one last as long as possible. This involved carrying fixodent in his pocket everywhere he went, in case his teeth came loose (which they had a habit of doing right in the middle of dinner with friends).
Eventually, we knew we couldn’t put it off any longer. He went to the dentist to have her take a look and see what the grand total would run us. It was just under $5,000. This was a big bummer, because there really is no such thing as dental insurance for the self-employed. Trust me, health insurance is what we do, and we looked high and low. There are lots of plans that would have ‘covered’ J’s bridge, but with a 12 month waiting period, and a cap of $1500 that they would pay. There are also discount plans available, but they have a very limited number of dentists on their networks, and the discount would have been about 15%. Since this procedure involved giving J new front teeth, we didn’t really want to go with a cut-rate dentist, since you generally get what you pay for and we preferred that he not end up looking like Cletus. So after much research, we decided to pay for the work ourselves.
J’s dentist offered a financing option through Capital One. We had one year interest free, after which the interest jumped to some large sum. Of course the minimum balance due each month was far less than the amount it would take to pay off the balance in one year. So we ignored that number, divided the total bill by 12, and set about paying off the balance in 12 months. Unfortunately, we were pretty poor at the time. We had over $30,000 in business debt – most of it on credit cards, ouch – and our little business was just starting to earn a little money.
So we decided that I should look for a part-time job to earn the extra money to pay off the dentist. J needed to work full-time on the website development for our new business (something I know very little about), so it made sense for me to be the one to look for something else. I ended up getting a job at our local library, working four mornings a week. I started out shelving books. Not glamorous by any stretch of the imagination, but we paid off the dental bill in 12 months, entirely interest free. That felt good, and made shelving books seem not so bad. When the dental bill was gone, we still had a long way to go to get ourselves out of debt entirely, so I decided to keep working at the library. In the 2 years I’ve worked there, I’ve earned $15,000. All of that money has been put towards our debts or our IRAs. So even though J has to work doubly hard in the mornings while I’m at my other job, and even though there have been lots of evenings that I’ve had to work late to catch up, I’d do the same thing over again.
The idea of a second job is not that appealing to most people, especially if it’s not a particularly exciting job (often the case, since you have to take whatever you can get to work around the schedule of your primary job), or if the pay is not that great. But it’s amazing what an extra $500 or $600 each month can do to your total debt levels. And another bonus… if you’re working two jobs, chances are you’ll be too tired to go out spending money after work.