I'm liking that hospital more and more. "Do you want me to send you a financial assistance form?" the woman who answered said when I told her I'd received my past-due bill and wanted to set up payment installments. I was dubious, since we make a decent amount of money and I doubt we'd qualify, but she insisted that it wouldn't hurt, so I agreed. "How much do you think you can pay a month?" she said.
"Seven hundred?" I said, since I calculated we could spare that much and I hate debt.
"Are you sure? I don't want to stretch you too tight. They're willing to work with you, that's the great thing. And with the holidays coming up, I don't want to strap you. What about, say, three hundred? And if you have the seven hundred you can send it, but this way you're not tight on cash through the holidays." I agreed, mostly because she was being so kind. They charge no interest, so I’m feeling about as good about paying this charge I shouldn't have to pay as I can be.
Incidentally, Eric's student loans have now come due, but the minimum payment is something ludicrously small--$145 or something--so that's not a big deal, either. Our current plan is to pay the minimum on the student loans until we've saved up $6000 in emergency money--we're at $2000 now and our end-of-the-month sweep into savings should be around $1000--and then start paying extra to get rid of that debt as soon as we might without wrecking our other plans. Luckily we're not as concerned about investing in stocks or 401ks because that money will only disappear anyway.
Actually one of my coworkers is buying up extra stocks and contributing more to his 401k because he figures lots of shares while they're cheap is a good idea, and intellectually I agree this is sound; but I don't think I'm really doing it. In seventh grade Humanities we were told to take X amount of imaginary money, pretend we had bought stocks with it, and track the stocks over the weeks to see what we had earned or lost. I kept some of my money instead of buying stocks with all of it. Imaginary funds, and going against the actual assignment, and I didn't use all the money because I thought it was too risky. (I did end up losing money. But I didn't get my grade docked, though the teacher looked at me funny.)