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Archive for December, 2009

Emotional shopping

December 31st, 2009 at 06:25 pm

So, this guy I know bought an iPhone. He's unemployed, won't look for even a part time job, subsisting entirely on student loans, and buys an iPhone.

His reasoning? I quote, "Well, I had a tough few days, and I decided that, you know what? I'm just going to get one."

Amazing. Everybody has tough days. Everybody. And those tough days that he was talking about? Well, long story short, he broke up with his ex-girlfriend. Let's just put it that way, because there's more to it, and frankly, I thought he was being a manipulative tool to her anyways.

Yes, this is the same guy that I'm trying very hard to not hang out too often. He's just, I don't know, he drives me batty. It's not so much that he has issues that bothers me. After all, who doesn't have issues?

It's just that he doesn't treat me much like a friend anymore, especially when a woman is involved. Even with waitresses that are spoken for or even married and I'm not even remotely interested in, he would look at me like competition and talk to them about my flaws like somehow it's just innocent humor.

I don't know why I even bother hanging out with him. I don't see him often as it is, and he can actually be cool sometimes. But you know what? If he doesn't want to treat me like a friend, then I'm just going to say forget it.

Experimenting with 50

December 31st, 2009 at 01:47 am

The temperature that is. Big Grin

I know others do the no-heat challenge, but for me, having no heat when it drops below 50 is passing that point where I can not sleep well. And if I can not sleep well, everything else in my life is going to suffer. So, that's why I don't personally do the no-heat challenge. For the rest of you that do, you're better than me!

However, what I do do is the 50 degrees experiment. I don't call it a challenge because, to me, a challenge would basically boil down to sheer willpower. While I could do that, I'd much rather figure out a way to live comfortably while staying at the lower temperature.

50 degrees is kind of pushing it though. You know it's borderline when even your eyeballs are a little bit sore due to cold....

But it's been an interesting experiment nontheless. I bought a sleeping bag from Walmart a while back. It's nothing fancy or expensive, and I use it more like a comforter. Rated for 40 degrees though, this alone has been enough to keep me warm at night!

My face has been a particularly interesting challenge. My nose, eyes, and ears get uncomfortably cold when I am trying sleep. I've tried several different things, but eventually settled on putting a toboggan over my face. Yeah, you know I'm nutty like that. The fabric is quite breathable though, and the toboggan also helps to trap some of the warmth from the breath and spread it around my face.

As for when I am up and about, I double up on the sweat pants and hoodies. The outer layer is extra large so that it can also cover over my hands and feet if necessary.

Overall, I have to say that this is actually... quite workable! There's no way I'm going to impress any woman with this, but nevermind that. Have you seen my gas bills recently? Well, they're still climbing because I still have them on to maintain 50 degrees, but the cost so far seems to be roughly the same as when I was sleeping in the closet. Except this way, I can go all over the house and even go outside! Big Grin

Another peculiar benefit is that I've actually been sleeping slightly better? Because it's cold to be up and about, I'm not as tempted to stay up late. In fact, I've actually been looking forward to going to bed early just to get warm. Big Grin

Ah, but even my frugal mother is starting to voice her concerns that I should turn the heat up. I don't know though. I'll bet I can do this the entire winter. I do turn the heat up when the kids are with me though. It's amazing how much of a luxury and joy that something as simple as heat can be when you normally go without it....

Banking final update

December 24th, 2009 at 01:40 pm

I'm near the finish line in getting all of my bank accounts straightened out.

My Wachovia account is finally squared away. It's completely hands-free. All I have to do now is just close the account some time late 2010 when the 5% saving program ends.

My PerkStreet account is set up, but will need to see it in motion to confirm that everything is working as it should. I've re-routed $1000 a month to it, and because it earns 1% cash back on purchases, I'm going to use it to pay off as much of my bills and expenses as possible.

My current credit union account is now my primary savings account. I need 12 transactions per month to maintain 3% APY. So, I will do that and then switch off to my credit card and PerkStreet.

If it works out as advertised, I will probably keep PerkStreet for as long as they give 1% cash back. I don't have any incentive to keep Wachovia, so I will likely close that when their savings program is over.

Holiday cheers

December 23rd, 2009 at 08:12 pm

The title is sarcastic. I'm about to rant about my ex again, so please feel free to ignore if you don't want to read about negative stuff. I'm also going to try very, very hard to keep it short.

I just had another fight with my ex last night. Basically, our divorce contract states that I get the kids from Dec 23rd to Dec 24th while she basically gets from Dec 25th to Dec 26th.

Over the past years, I've been accommodating and generous by allowing them to have the entire Dec 24th as well because her mother, who doesn't get along with the rest of her family who celebrates on the 25th, have her own Christmas party at her house on the 24th.

The past years haven't been a problem because I had gotten those days off, but this year, I have to work Christmas Eve, which means I was going to pick up the kids after work on the 24th to meet my parents for the holidays, instead of the usual 23rd.

Now, I ask you this. When someone is kind enough to step outside the legalized, contractual agreement-- with no personal gain to be had for said act of generosity-- and now this year, he has no choice but to work, causing a schedule conflict, what would you do?

A) Ask politely to see if the schedule can be worked out somehow? Maybe even thank him for having been so accommodating, and hey, is there something I can do to return the favor?

OR

B) Point out how the father is somehow at fault for changing the dates, even though it's within his legal bounds, as this causes a schedule conflict with her plans? A schedule conflict that he didn't even know she had at the time?

Guess what my ex-wife chose? You guess it. B!

Again, I'm trying to keep this as short as possible, so I won't go into details about a host of other incredible accusations she has made or implied about me. Please. Like anything she says actually holds any credibility.

In any case, I gave her the 24th again, and shifted my schedules to pick the kids up today to meet my parents. I don't mind it because my parents and I are much more flexible than their family's holiday plans (which is true). And to be fair, she did eventually calm down and talk nice.

Of course, it's not the date changes and my accommodating that bothers me. It's the fact that she's playing the victim and I'm the evil bad person again that frustrates me. Geez.

Annual net worth review

December 18th, 2009 at 03:05 pm

Well, it's that time of the year again, where after the last paycheck of the year comes in, I like to sit down with a cup of hot chocolate, look at my net worth history, and get a feel of how the year has progressed.

I don't know about the rest of you, but to me, the net worth isn't just a bunch of numbers. To me, it's more like brief reflections of my past life.

For example, I can look all the way back to 2006, when I was going through divorce. I see that I actually put down $500 for asset. It was all the cash I had, and even then, it was probably rounded up. I remember fretting about how I was going to come up with the money for my divorce lawyers, who wanted $6000 up front, and even then, I thought that maybe I shouldn't do that because I still had hope that we could patch things up....

Or take Jan 2008 for example, where for the first time, I had no liabilities listed. I remember wanting to be debt-free so badly, I scrimped everywhere, and I still remember all the rice and ramen noodles I've eaten to accomplish that goal. 2007 was not an easy year, but 2008 seemed like it was full of possibilities, even in the face of the economic meltdown.

This year does seem a little different. The previous years felt like I was in some kind of disaster survival mode, where all I could do was take care of the basic essentials. This year, with everything seemingly ship-shape, I was able to indulge in a little bit of furthering and deepening my finances, such as saving beyond minimum emergency funds. I also became a consumer and took advantage of many recession deals. As a result, I've progressed roughly $900 less than what I did last year or the year before.... But I have to admit, this year was a bit of a luxury for me.

Next year though, I'll be back in survival mode because of my impending job loss. Obviously, for someone who is as concerned about personal finances as I am, the specter of job loss hits me pretty hard. Then again, compared to what I've had to deal with in the past, this shouldn't be so bad? I'm certainly not losing sleep yet, which is always good. Big Grin

Perkstreet update update

December 17th, 2009 at 09:20 pm

I just received an interesting email from PerkStreet. They're making two additional offers:

1. Get $5 for making a non-PIN purchase with your PerkStreet debit card.

2 Get $100 if you direct deposit $1000 or more per month for the next 3 months.

The first one wouldn't be difficult at all... just as soon as I can get it activated! (I called them about it. They said they sent it, but I asked them to send it again.)

The second will require a bit more thought.... I suppose I could technically do that, but it also means that I should re-direct some of my bills that-a-way, because, look, I'm not made of money, and I still have to use my current credit union account to maintain my 3% APY. So, it all sounds like quite a bit of hassle....

But then, it's 100 smackers that they want to put into my hands for no extra money from me. Just shifting my personal finance towards their way. So, maybe it's worth it?

No fracking way!

December 17th, 2009 at 04:45 pm

Sorry for the pseudo swearing there, but I'm just absolutely blown away by the new Battlestar Galactica. I finally made it to season 4.5, but can't watch it on Blu-ray! I don't know why, but I'm betting it's some kind of Cylon encryption. The disc works just fine, even the bonus footages, until you get to the actual episodes. I've had Netflix send me two copies, but both failed the exact same way.

My PC is my only Blu-ray player. I don't have a standalone unit.

The chills.... Must be BSG withdrawal. Don't know what to do. Gotta have my fix!

Banking update

December 16th, 2009 at 03:08 pm

I spoke to a Wachovia rep. She said that what happened is that I put in $100 deposit to open the account, then set up $100 a month of transfer to their Way2Save program. Then, Wachovia also added their $50 bonus money (which is the main reason why I decided to go through all this), giving me $150 total.

The first month transferred just fine. The second month, I was short $50 on the transfer. I found out that Wachovia saving accounts act as an overdraft, so it pulled $50 out of the savings into my checking to cover the difference so that I can transfer the full $100... back into savings. Kind of funny when think about it. Big Grin

But bottom line is, I didn't lose any money, so I decided to just keep up with the program. I want to set up a monthly transfer, but I can't access my account online without my pin number and I had trouble using their phone system. Maybe I will stop by a branch later.

PerkStreet is almost set up. I've set up a $15 a month transfer there from my checking. I'm planning on using it to pay my monthly Netflix bill. I'm also missing my pin number here, so I can't activate the debit card. Netflix is blocked at work anyway, but once the card is activated, then I can use that to pay Netflix.

What a pain. Sometimes I wonder if it's really worth all this trouble. Anyways, anybody know when pin numbers are suppose to be mailed? I've already received everything else, but I haven't seen the PIN letters yet.

Too many banks maybe

December 11th, 2009 at 01:36 pm

A little while back, I set up an account with Wachovia to try to earn their bonus money. I thought I was doing fine until the first statement came in and I was fined $50 service charge for not having enough money in the checking when it tried to transfer to savings or something.

In all of this job fretting, I forgot that I set up $100 a month of automatic transfer to take advantage of Way2Save's 5% APY savings program.

Now, I'm trying to decide what to do with it. I'm basically thinking of either closing the account, or sticking $1200 in there and let the way2save program run for a year until the 5% APY expires.

But whatever it is, I have enough on my plate already, so I don't want the hassle of keeping up with this account. The $50 bonus for opening the account is already lost from the service charge, so, what would you do here?

On a related note, I also opened an account with PerkStreet Financial. I just got their welcome letter earlier this week, but I don't have a debit card from them yet. I think after 3 months, PerkStreet will actually pay me $75 total, but I do have to keep up with it. That is, at least one transaction per year. Plus, they offer 1% cash back for all purchases (which honestly isn't that great of a deal for me because I've been locking down on my spending).

Once again, what would you do here? Perhaps set up an automated bill pay? Close the account? Or something else?

For reference, my current credit union account is doing just fine. It pays 3% APY for my balance there, and although it requires 12 transactions per month, I have no trouble keeping that up.

Annual review

December 10th, 2009 at 03:50 pm

I just had an annual review with my boss.

I'm kind of surprised that raises were available, although my pay grade was already nearly maxed out, so it wasn't a big raise or anything. Still, I'm not complaining at all, and this job is ending soon anyways.

Also, my boss said his bosses are pondering the possibility of offering a bonus for those who decide to stay until the very end. That also makes sense because it would not help current operations if we all started to leave early.

Still, his advice is that I shouldn't wait if I do find a better job elsewhere, which I agree.

Overall, it was pleasant. My boss tried to help me with what he could, and I made sure to thank him. Every little bit helps.

When is the best time to buy an umbrella?

December 9th, 2009 at 07:48 pm

Answer: Before it rains. Big Grin

Since I don't anticipate any more major expenses for the rest of the year, I decided to go ahead and post the "results" of my 2009 goal as well.

My 2009 goal was simple enough: Throw everything I have, including the kitchen sink, at the emergency savings.

That's it. Simple right? The hard part, of course, is doing it.

I think if I really, really wanted to, I could have achieved this goal. However, earlier in the year, I was still on a sort of recession-deal buying spree. I mean, I don't think it was a terribly bad thing, but in the end, the result is still that I would only reach 85% of my intended goal.

But that's still progress, and I'm really glad that I did, because this year also came along with the bad news that I will be losing my job soon.

And hence the question in the title. I'm glad that I started saving before the news about the job situation happened.

Finally, since I'm here, I might as well go ahead and state my 2010 goal. Again, it's going to a simple goal that will be easier said than done.

Very simply, find a decent job.

Every year so far, it's been something.

Blood drive freebies

December 4th, 2009 at 06:24 pm

So, there was a blood drive at work, and I decided to get involved.... This is my first time, so I didn't know that they feed you snacks! I had to give up my lunch time though, but it's for a good cause, and the free cookies and apple juice certainly helped. Big Grin

Slumdog Millionaire

December 3rd, 2009 at 03:09 am

I finally rented this movie from Redbox, and wow, I'm just blown away. What a great movie! I loved Latika's theme song so much that I decided to get it. That's another $0.99.

Tuesday freebie

December 1st, 2009 at 06:00 pm

We had a pow-wow at work that involved the boss, the boss' boss, and the boss' boss's boss. Sooo, you know there would be free food. Big Grin And good stuff too! Green beans, sweet potatoes, chicken, and even steak! Woohoo! I love free food.

We had this pow-wow in order for them to update us on our site situation. It would seem that perhaps we may have as much as a year, not six months, but nobody is guaranteeing anything.

Given the situation, I suppose the mood was fairly somber, but I didn't feel that way. I was getting free food, they were telling us that we may have longer than expected, which also means that I'll have even longer to have income and save, which means I'll have even more savings to sustain myself after that.

Besides, they brought food for heaven sake, and it's not like it's their fault the site is shutting down. How can anyone get upset over that? So, I stayed over and made sure I said thank you and shook their hands.

But this impending shutdown is also a perfect example to me how life can be so uncertain, and that the only way to fight it is by creating your own financial safe harbor.