Expenses That Take a Backseat When You're Unemployed

"And what about you? We haven't seen you in a while! It's been, what, at least a year?" my dentist shrieked last Thursday after I brought in my 10-year-old for a routine cleaning.

I found this only slightly less irritating than dealing with an impacted wisdom tooth because first, no one wants to be dental-shamed, second, I was last there in late June of 2017 (not the mid-1980s as she seemed to be implying), and, third, piggybacking on my last point, I haven't been in because I lost my dental coverage when I lost my job last June.

Clearly, it's not like I walked out of her office that sunny summer day, threw my toothbrush in the gutter, laughed maniacally, and turned my back on oral care, vowing never to brush or floss again. So, needless to say, I found her behavior off-putting.

Now, you're probably thinking, "Liz, you're over-reacting. Surely this woman isn't a mindreader, how could she possibly know you were out of work (again!) and struggling to justify buying even commonplace items like organic apples and toilet paper that doesn't feel like it's made of porcupine quills?"

Well, she knows because when I pleaded for an appointment last June I made it abundantly clear that the clock was ticking. I had just two weeks left before my dental coverage expired, so I made it a priority to get myself in there. (The irony isn't lost on me that last June when I wanted an appointment, her schedule seemed jam-packed, but now that very same calendar is wide open and she's like a veritable auctioneer: "Tuesday at 10 a.m.? How's Thursday afternoon? Do I hear tomorrow? Going once..."

Thankfully, my husband's new job came with dental benefits, but they didn't kick in until he'd been there three months. And while I'm not suggesting anyone forgo his or her oral hygiene indefinitely, when you're coughing up $1,500 a month for bare-bones medical coverage for a family of five, the last thing you want to do is shell out more for dental coverage, especially if you can simply wait a few months and make a mere co-pay. And, in my defense, I'd like to note that during the time between cleanings I insisted everyone continue brushing/flossing/Listerine-ing with the diligence of a Miss America pageant contestant.

I'm sure I'm not the only person who doesn't feel like paying thousands of dollars out of pocket for a hygienist to tell me I should floss hourly. At a time when I have dozens of other, more-pressing expenses, I really don't appreciate my dentist carrying on as if my mouth has devolved into that of a neglected Jack O'Lantern.

Losing your job can obviously hurt your self-esteem but it also may decimate your bank account, which, in turn, causes you to reprioritize your expenses.

I wanted to say to this dentist, "Do you think I'd allow my eyebrows to go all Eugene Levy if I weren't trying to save a buck or two?"

"And, while we're at it, most of my bras are older than the entire cast of Riverdale, so back off!"

But I didn't say any of that, maybe because I'm too tired since I removed over-priced coffee drinks from my budget. And I'm sure she'd only point out that those brown beverages would leave my teeth more stained than Michael Douglas's circa Fatal Attraction.

Because purchasing even a fresh bouquet of tulips makes me feel as reckless and indulgent as a young Paris Hilton, other things have also fallen to the wayside while we waited for Fortune to once again turn her sweet smile our way.

Our landscaping, for example, has gone to seed. Last summer, I could've held a dandelion and mosquito festival in the backyard. (Perhaps with a sufficient cover charge, I could've afforded a half-mouth dental x-ray for one of us? Why didn't I think of this sooner!?)

And, much like everyone else who owns a home built in the 1920s, we've had other issues – specifically plumbing issues. At some points over the past year, I've been convinced newborns could tinkle with more force than the slow trickle that drizzled out of our faucets. But then the shower had the last laugh and decided not to turn off at all, forcing us to abduct a neighbor – a former plumber – and persuade him to do his best MacGyver-esque repair ... which resulted in this gaping hole in our wall:

But because he estimated the repair at about $1,500 if we'd hired a pro, that eyesore is just another testament to our frugality.

Still, I made a dentist appointment for early May and I'm looking forward to it about as much as if I were getting a Novocain-less root canal, but at least we have coverage.

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