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Retired Blog?

April 26th, 2016 at 03:54 am

Just read Petunia100's entry about missing retired blogs.

I suppose my blog would be considered retired since I haven't written in it since January 2015. It's still here though. . . I wonder where the others are.

Credit Card Fraud

July 1st, 2013 at 05:12 am

Or lack thereof.

Yesterday I attempted a small online purchase that wouldn't complete, and I couldn't figure out why. The shopping cart kept telling me to fix the error but no field was highlighted. I tried several times, and finally gave up and emailed the company.

About a half an hour later I received an automated call from our credit card company. The call indicated that our card might have been fraudulently used. We have had fraudulent activity three times in the last two years with this particular card, and my attempted purchase was a $1 sample.

I am grateful that their automated system tripped. Very grateful. So far we haven't had a tremendous hassle for each of our fraudulent uses the credit card company has caught it right away and contacted us. I called the credit card company directly and they authorized my $1 purchase. I was able to order my sample.

Transaction Clean Up

October 18th, 2009 at 04:57 am

In July, before Daisy and I went on our journey to The Land of My Youth, we went to the mall and bought some Crocs. Daisy was very interested, I was not so interested but thought they'd make good travelling shoes. I put the shoes on my credit card and paid off the amount when I got the next bill. Even though I didn't see the transaction I figured it hadn't gone through before the transaction cut off date. I try to stay ahead of the charges now.

The statement I received at the end of September had a credit in the exact amount of these shoes. I rechecked the statements and realized that I had never been charged for them. I believe in paying for what I purchase, so off I went to the mall, receipt in hand. I explained my situation to the person at the Croc kiosk and handed her the receipt. The top of the receipt had "declined" printed on it. At the time I purchased the shoes I remembered a discussion about this between two of the workers, but I didn't pay much attention to it. The worker this time got all excited about it and asked a bunch of questions about the original transaction, most of which I couldn't answer - I just didn't remember. She thanked me profusely for my honesty, took copies of the original receipt, and charged me again for the shoes less a 10 percent discount.

Now, I know I COULD have not gone back there - they clearly had no idea that I hadn't really been charged for the shoes. But my dad was very financially ethical, and impressed the same set of ethics on me (at least, I hope I'm that ethical) and there's just NO WAY I could have let that go. It wouldn't have been right. And, even if I wasn't that ethical, I think my dad would get on my case (in the next life, he is deceased) if he every found out. THAT thought would definitely keep me on the straight and narrow.

Surprisingly, I like my crocs. They're very comfortable, and they were a great travelling shoe. I might get another pair or two.

Endless Winter and Hog Wild

December 22nd, 2008 at 05:42 am

Endless Winter

Snow, snow and more snow. I live in an area that doesn't tend to get much snow each winter, or even be cold enough to snow. But some years we get dumped on and this is one of those years.

We had a snow last week which closed schools for three days. We have about 10 inches on the ground now. It's been cold enough to freeze the hummingbird feeder.

I've only gone out driving three times in the past six days. It does look like gasoline consumption will be lower than usual this month and (hopefully) allow Checkbook One to balance for the first time ever. . . or at least in several years. I don't think my navy showers and lowered thermostat will offset the extra power and gas usage caused by prolonged low temperatures though.

Hog Wild

Partially owing to the impending snow I did go a little hog wild in the store the day before yesterday. No, I wasn't at the grocery store buying milk, bread and batteries. I was at the fabric store buying polar fleece and patterns. I will use a lot of this fleece for Christmas gifts.** While there was some thought put in to this shopping trip there clearly wasn't enough. Here's what I see as the problems:

1) Too little advance planning. I did go through my patterns to see what fleece-type patterns I had, but there are many free patterns available on the internet. About 33% of what I spent was on patterns. Also, it would have been better to decide to do this months ago. Patterns go on sale for $1 each very regularly, so I could have spent next to nothing on them.

2) Went to the store without a dollar figure in mind. It really helps the budget to decide in advance how much you want to spend.

3) Did not keep a running tally of how much I was "spending" as I pulled bolts of fleece off the shelves.

4) I was in a hurry. I asked Mr H to take me to the fabric store since some of the roads were kind of icy. (I'd already slid to the corner on one street during a previous errand.) Mr H HATES the fabric store and early in our marriage swore off ever going there. Since he agreed to take me (and Daisy) and we were trying to beat the weather I tried to shop quickly.

I've had this type of shopping experience before, so I have an idea of What Not To Do. Sometimes it's hard to recognize when your brain is taking a holiday though. I think the number one thing that would have helped me out (besides applying forethought to Christmas preparations, something I didn't really do this year) was to go to the fabric store with a dollar figure in mind.




** Yes, it's three days until Christmas and I'm not prepared. Most of the gifts are for after Christmas get-togethers.

Navy Shower Analysis

December 5th, 2008 at 10:47 am

Curious to know what effect my navy showers would have on our water bill, I went into heavy-duty analysis mode.

* Got a five gallon bucket and measured the amount of water that runs from our shower head in one minute.
* Timed an average navy shower. Used the measurement to calculate the gallons of water used in an average navy shower.
* Guessed at the amount of time showering with a non-navy shower. Calculated the number of gallons used for that.
* Calculated the number of gallons used for a month of navy showers and a month of non-navy showers. Subtracted the navy shower gallons from the non-navy shower gallons to get the number of gallons saved per month of navy showers.
* Used the 7.481 gallons per cubic feet figure found in the Tightwad Gazette book to convert the gallons into cubic feet.

At this point I got out the most recent water bill, which covers two months, and made this startling discovery:
* Of the $87.51 bill, $57.20 are flat charges. No amount of decreased water usage will change them.
* In 56 days (per the bill), the amount charged for consumption was $30.31. That's 54 cents per day.

Further calculations revealed that taking navy showers, at least in my part of the world, will decrease my water bill by about 0.83 per month, or about $1.66 per bill.

I guess this experiment was not a stunning success. Nevertheless, I'm going to continue with navy showers. They help keep me in the frugal mindset.

I also plan to estimate the dollar savings of turning the heat down during the day while I'm home.

Emergency Fund

November 17th, 2008 at 10:36 am

I'm still playing with goals. I left what I've had up in my sidebar as goals, although technically they are not goals. They aren't measurable and they don't have a deadline.

Laying in a significant emergency fund seems like a next good goal. Mr. H's job isn't stable, the economy isn't stable, and I'd like the added sense of security of it. So I've added that to the list even though it's technically not a goal either - no deadline.

After I came to this, I waited for a good time and ambushed, er, brought it up to Mr. H. * He agreed that this was a good idea and said that he thought we were already doing it. The money that was spent on his car this past summer was our savings and it's been slowly added to as random money has appeared. But we've never said it was an emergency fund. I think there's a difference in, well, purpose and feeling of intensity between savings and emergency fund. Then I asked him how much he thought we ought to aim for. He named a dollar amount, I agreed, and it's up on the side bar. The conversation, about 10 minutes' worth, was tense. Since we both had to be elsewhere shortly, we agreed to discuss it further the next day. **

When DH asked me about this again, *** I told him I thought our options to fund the EF were: 1) make more money or 2) save more money. Sounds pretty obvious, right?

To make more money either 1) he would need to get a different job AND/OR 2) he would need to get an additional job 3) AND/OR I would need to get a job (part time or back into the workforce). I don't see either 1) or 2) happening, and I would like to be available for my daughter which leaves out 3 (for the most part). So then it becomes saving more of what comes in. And this is where it becomes dicey for me. We can, and should, cut back on food expenses. But beyond that I feel like we're getting into more "extreme savings lifestyle changes". . . and while I recognize there are always choices, and I am choosing family relationships over money, I am just not loving the idea of "extreme savings lifestyle changes" - the things that came to mind are lowering the heat****, hang-drying the laundry, and "navy showers" (you can read about them here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Navy_shower). I hope they will grow on me, as also the idea of working at paid employment in a temporary and part-time fashion.

This conversation was also tense. I believe that IF we set a goal to have an emergency fund of $XX, and IF we set a deadline, and IF we keep focused on it, THEN the opportunities to achieve this goal will appear. DH has a hard time if the opportunities aren't immediately apparent. Perhaps I just have more faith (well, and more experience achieving goals) than he does. At any rate this is where we frequently get stuck.

* I know I've written many times about not feeling like we have much of a team effort here, financially or otherwise. But, as long as I'm here, I still need to make the effort, right? The difference is that I use different strategies to talk about things than I used to, and I'm less invested in the outcome than I'd like to be. I have to be less invested - a girl can only get her heart broken so many times.

** I suppose that's a guideline for possibly tense conversations - set them up to be short, so you can say your piece and go to your separate corners . . . you're not required to keep fighting about them.

***Yes, he does get credit on the teamwork balance sheet for bringing it up.

**** But I am sitting here with the thermostat set at 66, and doing okay so maybe I can get used to it.

Up in ARMs

May 16th, 2008 at 07:43 am

We have an ARM and our interest rate will readjust at the beginning of June. Although many people have gotten burned by ARMs we have done well. There was actually a strategy behind the ARM, and it paid off for us.

We bought our house 11 years ago when we were both working. The strategy was to pay down the ARM during the first three years before it adjusted. When it adjusted our payment would be lower. As we paid down more and more it would enable us to live on one income.

We were able to do this, and I think the following is why:
* We bought a relatively small, inexpensive (for our area) house. The bank was willing to give us about twice the mortgage that we ended up with, but I didn't want to be tied to my corporate job forever.
* Our mortgage is through a credit union. There has been no upheaval with the mortgage being sold to another entity. I've heard all kinds of horror stories about what happens when loans get sold.
* We actually DID pay down the mortgage during the first three years, and have paid more to the principle since then. Our contract includes language that allows us to pay extra towards the principle and pay off the mortgage early with no penalty.
* With nine different rate adjustments (including the upcoming one) only two have been higher than the initial loan rate. The rest have been lower, including one year during which the rate was almost four percent lower than the initial rate. This was totally outside our control and was just good fortune on our part.
* We did not tap into our equity with a line of credit.

Most of the time our financial strategy feels like a house that people added to randomly. There are doors that open up to walls, rooms with no windows and a porch you can't get to from the inside of the house. But our ARM strategy is a nice, comfortable living room.

Money is No Object

April 29th, 2008 at 08:12 am

Mom's coming to town next week for a family event. Mom's visits present some interesting challenges.

I grew up in a typical middle class household. We never needed anything, but we didn't get everything we wanted either. Both of my parents worked, Dad made some good investments, Mom left paid employment when I was in high school and Dad retired not too much later at 50. While he seemed really young to retire, nobody could see the future - Dad died in his early 60's. Mom was left pretty well off.

My folks were never ostentatious, but Mom hasn't had to figure out how to drive less, or look at whether chicken or hamburger is cheaper, or put off purchasing socks for a long, long time. She has a "money is no object" kind of attitude. She and another family member have that approach - it seems like they solve all problems using money. And they expect you to do the same.

We don't have enough disposable income to solve all of our problems by spending our way out of them. We have to think a bit more, let go of a few more wants, solve our problems differently. But when you relate what's going on in your life, and your mom says, "Why don't you just buy XYZ?", it's kind of tough to come up with an answer without sounding broke. We aren't broke - we just make the choices that go with our income.

Anyway, I haven't come up with any good responses for my mom. If anyone else has handled this situation I'd love to hear how you did it.

$6 Door Knob

April 25th, 2008 at 09:03 pm

Last week, one of the adults (not saying which one) in the household left the garage door up all night. Fortunately for us nothing happened.

When I got up in the morning I freaked out. Since there is no lock on the door between the garage and the house, it's kind of like leaving your front door open all night. And I value my safety. And Daisy's safety. And DH's too, although he's bigger and stronger than Daisy and me. So I asked DH if he would put a lock on that door.

Today DH came home with a locking doorknob. It was extra at work - not the kind they usually use, so it would not get used again. DH had taken it to the locksmith and had it rekeyed to our dead bolt for a cost of $6. He has a working relationship with them so they may have given him a deal. He then installed it. He's handy that way.

When I asked he told me that if he'd purchased it new it would be about $35. That would be a savings of $29.

Thanks DH!

Vision/Eyesight

April 23rd, 2008 at 03:43 pm

Although Daisy's eyes test out at 20/20, she has some vision problems. You can read a little about vision problems here:

http://www.vision-therapy.com/About_Vision.htm

She goes to vision therapy every other week with eye exercises to do at home. This treatment is not covered by our insurance. An average person goes through treatment in 9 months, going every week. At $100 per session (or $95 if you pay for four sessions at a time), even going every other week like we do adds up.

She recently had a re-evaluation and the doctor was very pleased. She's making faster progress than the doctor expected.

I think this progress is due to the fact that Daisy actually does the home work. We sit down every week day, before school time, and do it. She can't do it on her own; I have to watch her eyes, time some of the exercises, etc. I don't know how kids who go to regular school can do this - when Daisy is tired this "eye work" is very hard.

Anyway, the more regularly we work at home, the faster the treatment and the less expensive it is in total. I'm happy about that!

Oh, and I should add that I'm happy that Daisy's vision is improving. I can tell the difference even though she doesn't think she has a problem.

More Talking

April 23rd, 2008 at 06:21 am

More talking here in the onion patch. . . and that's a good, if sometimes frustrating thing.

Yesterday I decided to bring up something that was bothering me. Earlier this year DH took me out to a nice restaurant for my birthday. He did good too - choosing one that I liked and keeping it a surprise. But when the credit card bill came I was the one who had to figure out how to pay for it. Since this is typical of our life together I let it go. But in light of the other day's side-job revelations I felt pretty irritated about it and brought it up. Why am I trying to figure out how to pay for my own gift?

Apparently this was a surprise to DH. . . but it led to a larger conversation about our whole financial picture.

We discussed the spending-more-than-we're-making problem. DH took a "the sky is falling" approach, and I could see that we weren't going to be able to do any real problem solving so I just let him talk. He has a wish list of items he'd like (new truck - his is almost 16 years old, DVD player & TV, finish landscaping the backyard - his strong desire about them were news to me) but doesn't feel like he'll ever get them. He was convinced that we would run through what's left of the bonus money in the next four months. At current rates this is not mathematically possible. I did point that out, and in a nice way too, but he wasn't having any of it.

At the root of "the sky is falling" though, I think, is the recognition that his job situation is unstable. He has known this for a while. He could look for another job or try to improve the stability of the one he has but he has chosen not to act.

I just listened, and he suggested that we try to talk again tomorrow. So we'll see.

I have read many books and blogs, and have thought many times, "What a great idea! I bet we could do something like that!" Or "We could try that out, I bet it would help our budget." He doesn't seem to take that approach to life though, and that type of tunnel vision has been a real hindrance in problem solving.

Although I received much great information on discussing the mutal funds with DH, I think I'm going to have to wait on it.

Common Good

April 20th, 2008 at 01:04 am

Today DH and Daisy went to the nursery to get some plants. Tonight I looked around for a receipt - didn't see a credit card receipt and I knew DH didn't take the checkbook.

So I ask him, How did you pay for the plants? He says, with my bowling money. (DH is in a bowling league, and as near as I can tell it's something of a cross between bowling and gambling. When the season ends they get prize money based on how well the team did for the year.)

Hmm, I think to myself, I haven't seen a check for bowling in a long time. So I ask, How have you been paying for bowling? Turns out he's been doing side jobs for his current employer and getting paid cash for them. He's used this to fund bowling and put gas in his truck.

There are so many things wrong with this for me, I'm not even sure where to begin, but here are two: Firstly, I believe it's unethical not to report earnings. He has received W-2's for these side jobs in the past, but none in the last couple of years. But, worse, it says something about how he views money and our relationship. Supposedly our money is in common with joint accounts, etc. Yet not only is he not telling me about this extra income (which I'm guessing is at least a thousand dollars since September), he's also not willing to work with me on a spending plan for the money "we" do have. Instead, he'll avoid having to have this conversation by taking cash for these side jobs and spending the money in ways that make him comfortable.

I don't begrudge him wanting plants for the yard or gas for his full-size truck. I do think it would be better to work together for the common good, but I have had no success in convincing him that a common good would be good for both of us.

Bread Adventures

April 18th, 2008 at 08:54 pm

One of my current food projects is to work out a substitute for the healthy but expensive bakery bread we were buying. DH eats a sandwich every day for lunch, and Daisy likes toast. So we go through a respectable amount of bread for a three person family.

And, of course we have our bread preferences - I like to eat whole wheat but DH won't eat anything heavy - it's got to be pretty fluffy for him.

When we first started shopping at this bakery we loved their bread. It met both our desires - whole wheat and fluffy. But I think they changed their recipe or something. . . it just started to taste not as good. And they switched to all organic ingredients, which I'm all for - but it upped the price by about 50 cents per loaf.

So, at least for the moment, I've gone to making bread. There's some in the oven right now, and I'll finish this entry in time to pull it out.

I'm working towards making bread that tastes good and is easy and convenient to make. I tried a thrift store bread maker (bread sank every time), Kitchen Aid stand mixer (heavy to pull out so regularly), by hand (hard on the wrists) and am now trying out a bread bucket.

Yes, a bread bucket. I had never heard of such a thing until I read the Tightwad Gazette. I found one in a thrift store a few weeks ago. I knew exactly what it was although it stumped the cashier ("What's that? A butter churn? An ice cream maker?"). This is the second batch and it seems to be working pretty well. Even Daisy can turn the crank and knead four loaves' worth at a time.

I haven't calculated the price per loaf but a quick guesstimate would put it at less than half of the bakery's price.

Introduction

April 14th, 2008 at 09:37 pm

I have read lots of blogs that discuss finances, and so many of them rave on and on about how they (the writer and the spouse) are a team. They have a great financial goal, and they are headed full steam towards that goal. Over months and years you can see them, working together, achieving that goal.

But what if you are married to someone who doesn't share your financial aspirations? Or someone who pays lip-service to mutual goals but is unwilling to make sacrifices to achieve those goals? What if you are married to someone whose financial strategies cause you a great deal of discomfort? And is unwilling to work out a compromise with you? That is the unfortunate position in which I now find myself.

My quest is to figure out how to make myself more comfortable with our finances while not starting a cold war in my home, and to discover how to achieve financial goals without cooperation from my husband. (Those who are married are shaking their heads in disbelief.) I'll also add here that, while I am frustrated with my situation, I'm not trying to make my husband UNcomfortable while I make myself comfortable. I really feel that this would be the wrong-spirited way to take care of my problems.

We aren't doing too badly financially, really. We own our own home. We have a modest income. I worked until our daughter was two, then left paid employment to be home full time with her. She is now eight, and home schooled. We have no debt but our mortgage and pay off our credit card every month. Neither of us are big spenders.

But - we still spend monthly a little more than we make monthly. How is that possible without massive credit card debt, you ask? We had savings when I left work, and DH receives a bonus each year that is a percentage of his annual income. Some of this money was spent on things like insulation, a furnace and new windows. Some of it was spent on groceries. Some of it was spent on frivolities. Most of my work savings is gone. Most of this year's bonus, paid in December, is still sitting around.

Additionally, we are in our mid-40's without much saved for retirement. This has me extremely nervous. I don't expect Social Security to be around when I'm 70. I am watching our parents and their friends age. . . become less healthy. . . need help with daily activities. Someday this will be us. Aside from trying to take the best care of my health that I can, I feel we need to be more aggressive in saving for our old age.

Right now I don't have any formal goals. A goal can be measured, right? I just have a mission, and no matter how I word it, it sounds a bit selfish, but it's still my mission: to look after my own personal comfort in the areas of the amount that is spent each month and retirement savings. Goals will eventually follow.