Guest post from Marie
At nearly 14, my son’s last baby tooth had finally fallen — I was filled with elation but also dread. We always knew he would need braces (we’re talking major orthodontic help) as he was born with a snaggle of slow-growing teeth and was missing an adult canine tooth.
It’s a genetic trait several family members share, and they have all ended up with partial dentures as adults.
Fortunately for my son, dental implants are now the norm, but they start at about $3,000 per tooth. How was I, a divorced mom, going to pay to straighten out what was there, and plan for what will come?
I started putting away $10 a week since my boy was 10, giving me more than $1500 so far. Working for a coupon company, I cut every corner I could and put any excess into braces and college funds. My work insurance also paid a portion of orthodontics.
By January of this year I’d saved up $2,000; but braces tend to run $3,500 and up in my area, and he’d need more than the norm. He’s a good-looking kid but refused to smile and it broke my heart. It would only get worse as he entered his teen years. I had to do something.
Seizing a Deal
The answer came unexpectedly a few weeks ago when I attended a fund-raiser for a new magnet middle school. I went as a favor to a friend who was selling her jewelry in a booth. I was surprised by the number of handicrafts and silent auction items.
I promised myself I’d steer clear of beauty products and artisan clothing – wants instead of needs – and then I came upon the most unusual “deal” I’d ever seen: $3,700 worth of metal braces from an orthodontist whose son attended the fledgling school.
Doing My Research
A deal like this would not be worth it if the orthodontist had a bad reputation. A quick survey of attendees who knew him and a Google search on my phone showed he was a respected professional with no complaints filed against him. I had to do this. The opening bid was $500. I held my breath and bid the next allowable amount: $550 — and I won!
A Deal Waiting for Me
Sometimes you have to spend money to save money, whether it’s grocery stockpiling or buying in bulk or a pre-sale price. This fell into the latter category for me. Even if the $3,700 didn’t cover all the work he needed, it would lighten the load.
When the initial appointment time came around, I was nervous. What if my son needed so much work my $3,700 and insurance would be just a drop in the bucket? I did not want to use credit with a high interest rate to pay it off.
A Pleasant Surprise
It turned out the orthodontist, a kind man, works with families with small budgets and even works on a sliding scale with families receiving public assistance. I didn’t fall into that category but he agreed to honor the auction deal. My son gets a full set of braces next month and all adjustments until the work it done.
Yes, he will need a retainer with a false tooth until he is old enough to get the implant, and that step of the journey will run at least $5,000. Insurance will pay part of that, if I have the same coverage in five years. To be safe, I will continue to save and should be able to afford it, and my son will be able to afford to smile again.
Marie Hickman is a TV journalist turned savings writer. She and her son live a fun, frugal life in Palm Harbor, Florida. Follow her on Twitter at @MrsHickman777.