Friday, November 21, 2014

From Fair to Good

I just checked my Credit Karma credit score. In the 4 years since our bankruptcy was finalized, my credit score is now over 700.  703 to be exact. I am finally out of the Fair category on in the Good category. It's been a long slow road to get there. 

I use the credit cards I have (except I haven't used the Shell gas one in quite awhile - the station upped their prices and it's been running 10 cents a gallon higher than other places I can get it) but pay them off in full when I use them. I do carry a balance on my Lowe's and CareCredit cards, but those are at interest free promotions and I make monthly payments so that they will for sure be paid off by the time the promotion is up.  Same thing with a PayPalCredit (formerly BillMeLater) but that doesn't report to the credit bureaus.

The Lowe's and PayPalCredit will both be paid off in full in February. That will add back $300 a month to my budget. One of the CareCredit charges (dental work) will be paid off in February, also. The remaining charge (my last big dental work over the summer) was 18 months no interest, so I have until Feb of 2016 to pay that off.  That's all I will have left after February and that payment will just be $40 a month.  I used Lowes for a power tool when DH was building the arbors. The PayPalCredit was for some of our bath remodel and buying a couple of 50# bags of casoron for our large graveled front area of our property. (that stuff is expensive!). I wouldn't have used the credit and made payments if they all hadn't been on no interest promotions. I felt it better to be able to use those promotions and spread out my payments, rather than using up most all of my savings.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Sign up time

It's that wonderful, anticipated time of year..No, not Thankgiving and Christmas....time to re-enroll for crappy, expensive health insurance! Oh Joy!  My current carrier wants to up my monthly premiums by $15 a month.  So, I did some checking to compare the other plans available. I found two that were the same amount as I am paying now, but office visits are a $20 copay, rather than all of it going to the (high) deductibe and basically paying out of pocket for the visit. But in doing the "find a doctor" searches DH's doctor wasn't coming up on the plans.  Kind of surprised, as these are good insurance companies that most doctors in our area have all always taken. (Blue Cross/Blue Shield).

I was on our doctor's website, to get their phone number, to call and inquire about what insurance plans they take and found a page on their website explaining it. They take these 2 insurance companies for plans purchased outside of the exchange, only. Whew...I am purchasing outside of the exchange. The only reason to go through the exchange would be to get a subsidy and I don't qualify for that. Otherwise the prices for the plans are exactly the same, except lots of doctors won't take the plans purchased through the exchange, I am noticing.

I applied today for a plan that is the same as I paid per month this year and will offer $20 office visit copays. DH averages about 2 visits per year, lately. So this year I basically paid out of pocket for his 2 visits, totaling about $250.  DD hasn't needed to go to a doctor in years, but she would like to make a visit (or however many it will take) to check out her toenails on her big toes. They are so thick (always have been) but seem to be getting worse.  I will get her in for an appointment right after the first of the year with my doctor. If she needs a follow up visit she can come home some weekend and just go to the walk in clinic (same office), I guess.

Plus, this health insurance company takes credit/debit card payments, so I can start putting the monthly premium on my PayPal debit card and earning 1% cash back, which will be $4.76 a month. Every little bit helps, right?

Speaking of my PayPal debit card - I posted last Friday about the fraudulent charges that I found on there. I called back this morning to verify that I was getting credited back the $100 and $25 charges. I already had and didn't realize it. I just was having trouble reviewing my activity on the account and didn't catch that they had been credited. The guy I talked to was SO nice and helpful. So was the first guy I talked with last week. I cannot complain one bit about their customer service. It has been top notch and quick to take care of the issue.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

It's cold out!

Brrrr - it's been cold here. Night times in the teens and 20's and daytime in the 40's. But, pretty blue skies.  Yesterday we did some yard maintenance. Got the fuchsia bush pruned down to the ground. Amazing how it grows so huge every spring/summer. DH tried to trim some overgrown shrubs and just kept getting frustrated with the little gas trimmer he has. It rarely wants to start and if it does it only runs for 20 seconds. So he was cussing and swearing at it and I asked him where he even got it in the first place, because it's not like him to have crappy stuff.  Apparently it's something his dad gave him years ago (probably because it didn't work right) and DH has fought it every time he has tried to use it (which isn't very often). Finally, I said, just throw it away! So he tried to pull the starter a bunch more times and finally walked over to the garbage can and threw it away. Just like his dad to take crappy care of stuff and then wonder why it doesn't work.

Later, after he had used the leaf blower, mowed them up with the lawnmower, etc., he came back in the house and said "I couldn't throw it out" I think I need these gas lines and this little filter". LOL. So, I'll make a trip to the auto parts store today and see if I can find what he needs. I looked at the prices of new ones - they are pricey! $300 on up. Hopefully his fix will work.

Today we are waiting for the Comcast repair guy to come. Our phone isn't working right. It rings on our end, we answer it and no one is there and on the callers end it's going straight to our voicemail. Plus when we make calls it cuts in and out and you can't hear all the other person is saying.  I called them on Wednesday to report it. They said they were to try and fix it on the backend first and if not they'd have to send out a tech. Of course when they called to tell me they needed to schedule an appointment, it went to voicemail. I tried to call back right after (Friday evening) and called the # that was left in the voicemail and then was told I had to be transferred to another department that handled phone service and I was on hold forever. I finally hung up and tried to call back and was told the wait was an hour and a half to talk with customer service. So, I tried back yesterday, when the wait was only 10 minutes, and finally got to talk to someone to schedule the appointment. we'll be able to answer all the spam phone calls we get, which are 95% of the time our phone rings.

Friday, November 14, 2014

What a shame

It's sad that we live in a world where a person has to check their bank account or credit card every single day to make sure fraud charges aren't going through.  Recently the company credit card, where I work, got hacked, by some gaming company. This is about the 3rd time on this card in the past year. My mom said she recently got hacked, again it was some gaming company. I was just thinking the other day that I'm surprised nothing has happened on my PayPal debit card.  Well, I logged in today and sure enough there were 2 unauthorized charges pending. One for $100 and one for $25. Both to a gaming company. They were similar names, but not quite the same and not the same gaming company names that hit my mom's or work's cards.

So, now those are flagged and will get denied when they go through (they are in pending status, so I guess Paypal can't do anything until it "completes", which is usually the next day) and my card has been canceled and a new one on the way. I have to wait a week or so for the new card to get here, plus I have things set up to pay with this current card #, so I'll have to check to make sure nothing tries to go though between now and getting my new card #.  And then go change all my payment accounts. GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!

I remind my DD all the time to be checking her bank account online every day.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Crabby Wednesday

I had a nice 5 days with DD. I also took Monday and Tuesday off work.  We enjoyed shopping, a lunch with my mom, and dinner out with DH (all celebrations for her birthday). She will be home again in 2 weeks for the Thanksgiving weekend, then 10 days back at school and home for a few weeks at Christmas break.

She had dropped her car off at a friends shop on her way home and I picked her up after work last Thursday. It took us 3 hours to get home - 83 miles! We left about 1:30 yesterday afternoon to take her back to our friends shop to get her car. (He only charged her $60 and did a bunch of fixes on it!) We hadn't planned on DH coming, nor did we even want him to come, but he did :-(.  Of course it was hours and hours of having to listen to him complain about traffic, etc.  I had hoped traffic would be a bit lighter, since some people had the day off, but it wasn't. There was a big wind storm, so trees were down in lots of areas, which we hit on the way up there and had to detour, so that added an extra 45 minutes or so. It took us over 2 hours to get home (better than the 3 hours it took DD and I, I guess :/).  Traffic around here is beyond ridiculous, so now I have to listen to DH piss and moan that he can't stand living here, etc. We need to move, etc. I need to find a job in some small town, etc. Problem is - all the places he wants to move to (medium/small towns) have almost the same cost of living as where we are now (which is strange), but salaries are way less.  There's no way I'm giving up a $75k a year job (with potential bonus's) for a $50-$60k a year job and have almost the same housing costs.

It's all a moot point anyway - we still have negative equity in our house and couldn't sell it to move even if I wanted to.  It just gets tiring listening to him complain about it and then act like it's all my fault.  And I'm tired of him acting like I am stupid - when in reality it's him with all the stupid ideas and notions. Like our home phone is acting weird - people call and it rings, but on their end goes straight to voicemail. But not every call does this. I took his cell phone off his charger to try and call our home phone as a test to see if it went to voice mail. It did, but my cell phone didn't. Our neighbor tried to call us 4 times this morning and went to voice mail. So, he flips out that I took his (rarely ever used) cell phone off the charger before it was fully charged! OMG! Taking it off the charger will set the charge and it won't fully charge anymore. I'm like not anymore. Years ago batteries were like that, but not anymore. Oh no, I'm wrong, stop always disagreeing with him, blah blah.  Finally I just said fine, no problem, I'll never lay a finger on your cell phone again, but just so you know for your own personal use, here is a link to where it explains modern cellphone batteries are all lithium and you don't have to fully charge them, if you don't want to or can't sometimes. Geez - it's not 1990 anymore and I am not stupid.

Then he suggests that maybe our  neighbor has his phone "blocked" and if we don't accept blocked calls it's going to voicemail. I said, no, that's not it. First if he was blocked, his number wouldn't show on our caller ID and second....but before I could make my second point he's flipping out that I don't know what I am talking about. Anyhow, my second point is that our phone setting isn't set to block anonymous calls. And I'm right on both points, anyway.  I called Comcast and they are trying to figure it out from their end, before sending out a tech. The Comcast phone assistance lady tried to call twice and it rang on my end and went to voice mail on her end. Hopefully they will figure it out soon, because our phone quality is cutting in and out on many calls, too.

On a good note, we finally saw both of our little barn kitties today. We weren't even sure if they are around anymore. The food doesn't get eaten very quickly and I don't know if our indoor/outdoor cat eats it too. I know he goes up in their little hut we built in the wood shed, so he probably eats out of their bowls too.

We finally got a call back from the new Lieutenant over at the sheriff's office. He basically acted like they can't do anything about our neighborhood drug problem! Give me a break. He said probably the best they will be able to do is increase the patroling, try to make some arrests, and that will probably quiet the drug activity down....for a bit, but they'll just start up again. He said he'll look into it and get back to us in a week. He said if the county had drug laws like the city did, they'd have them busted easily, but since we are out in the county, they don't have as many avenues to get the busts as the city cops do. I guess the city cops can get search warrants and probable cause easier than the county can.

I just need a break from DH! Ready to go back to work at the office tomorrow, LOL.

Monday, November 10, 2014

To FSA or not to FSA

I go through this every year this time. Most years I haven't bothered with it. It's too hard to estimate what my out of pocket medical expenses might be for a year in advance. So, of course I always way underestimate, but if I ever had money left in there to loose, I (mentally!) would lose it! Granted, now there is a new rule that some can be carried forward to the next year.  But, it's a confusing amount! You decipher an excerpt  from the email we got from our benefits coordinator:

The 2014 health FSA plan has a carryover feature which allows you to rollover up to $500 of unused health FSA funds to the following plan year (2015).  If you have a balance of less than $200 remaining in your 2014 health FSA plan this will be forfeited at the end of the plan year and not carried over due to administration costs.   Unused health FSA funds in the excess of $500 remaining in the account after the end of the plan year will also be forfeited.   Unused Dependent Care funds will also be forfeited at December 31, 2014.   

Confusing much? So, what I get is that if I have $199 or less left in my account I loose it all. If I have between $200 and $499, I get to roll it all over and if there is any amount over $500, I lose that amount. Ok, let's make sure we can plan that one out. Dumb. I don't have any left in my FSA this year (thanks to all the dental work) but I can tell you that if I had ended up with $199 left, I'd be a bit bent out of shape that if I had had one more dollar left, I'd have the money to roll over.

With our one income and tax breaks with DD in college, my tax rate isn't super high, but I at least save about 12% in taxes, which means I saved about $160 this year by using the FSA. Is it worth the hassle? They have made it easier, with the debit card, but half of the things I charged to it required me to find my receipt, scan it, and email in a copy to verify the charge.  My conservative estimate for 2015 would be about $1600.  I guess, I'll probably do it again this year. I know I am going to have some more dental work that will probably exceed my benefit limit, along with I will probably make another eye doctor visit near the end of next year and most likely need new glasses/prescription.

Friday, November 7, 2014

The Electricity hog

We've had 2 months of electricity bills since DD has been gone. Our October bill was 18% less than the previous year and the bill I just got today was 23% less than last years bill. Our monthly billings vary in the amount of days in the billing cycles, sometimes it's 30, sometimes its 28 and sometimes it's 35. I thought maybe the difference from the previous year was different amounts of days, but each billing cycle had the same amount of days as the previous year.  So, I'll take the $26 in lower electricity bill this month!  What a little electricity hog she must be. LOL

She is home for a long weekend, through Tuesday, so I am very happy :-)  Not for sure what all our plans are. Some birthday celebrating, some shopping and a little visit to the cemetery abbey to leave some flowers for my grandparents at the little niche their ashes are in.

It was not a fun trip to pick her up! She has her car, but it's been having some more problems, so she decided to drop it off at our friends shop (the one who did all her engine work). So I left work at 2:30 yesterday afternoon to drive to his shop which is about halfway between her school and my work (the opposite direction of my house). It took me an hour and 15 minutes to go the 45 miles to his shop to meet up with her. It then took us almost 3 hours to drive the 84 miles back home! And that was even getting to use the car pool lane. Just beyond ridiculous.  Worth it to see her and have her home, though.  And we know her car is in good hands, with someone we totally trust to fix it right and not charge her an arm and a leg.

I'm working from home today and this afternoon is an appointment to get our hair trimmed and then get the grocery shopping done.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Birthday shopping

I got out early yesterday morning (well, by 9:30) to go do some shopping for DD's upcoming 19th birthday.  She'll be home next weekend, for a long weekend, and I don't want to take away time from her to go shopping then.  She gave me a few ideas.  I ordered the keyboard she wants for her ipad mini and a little crocheted coffee mug "cozy" from Etsy.  I had $15 in Amazon credits from Swagbucks, so the keyboard was $12 and the mug cozy was less than $10 with shipping. The other thing she wanted was a throw blanket, something like the woven/loose knitted style one I have in my bedroom for naps. I've looked at 3 stores and so far no luck. Everything is those soft microfiber type material.  Guess I'll have to look online and see if I can find one for Christmas.

Instead I got her a lightweight hooded jacket in black from Kohl's. She mentioned she wanted a new ring. Nothing fancy or expensive, but in size 5, rather than her usual purchase of size 6. Well, 5 is a lot harder to find. I found a few rings at Kohl's in size 5, but didn't like any of them.

So, I just kept looking around and found this necklace ~

Ok, I didn't pay $250! But it was on sale and another 15% off, so I paid $85 for it.

I'm not sure if I have mentioned our "owl issue" yet. Since about a month before she left for school we both started seeing owls everywhere. It was happening to both of us. Every time she or I looked on Pinterest, owls would pop up. Every trip to a store we'd see something with an owl on it. Now that Christmas decorations are out, I'm even seeing owl Christmas things! I don't ever recall seeing owl Christmas stuff before.  Apparently owls symbolize a big change is coming in life. We say it's a message from Great Grandma, saying she is watching over us :-)

My grandparents collected owls. DD doesn't remember Great-grandpa, but she was really close to Great Grandma, who passed away a little over a year ago. So, I decided to get her this cute owl necklace. Do you know how many owl things I saw on my shopping trip this morning? An owl coffee mug at BB&B, a sweater with on owl on it at Ross, then an owl necklace at Kohl's (not the above). I was going to get the first necklace. It was only $25 and cute, but then I saw this one and it's so much more dainty and feminine (and better quality).

I went over my $100 budget for her birthday.  I spent $155 total, but I did also get $20 in Kohl's cash back, so $135 really.  I can live with that.

I was gone a couple of hours and glad to get back home. Usually traffic doesn't get bad on Saturdays until after 10:30am or so, but it was already bad. I had run out of the little filters I use in my Keurig adapter, so it wouldn't brew. I really wanted some coffee and I still had a few dollars left on a Starbucks gift card and decided to go through the one that has a drivethru on my way to BB&B. The car line was so long, so I decided to to in. Long wait there and I asked for a tall white mocha. Usually they ask if you want whip and if they don't ask they assume you want it, since I didn't say no whip. Didn't get whip and it also just tasted terrible :/  Then when I was trying to leave Ross an elderly lady had a cart full of bags. The carts have this tall pole sticking up on them and the pole was too tall to go out the door. The security guy said, "oh mam, the carts won't fit thru the doors". But she just kept trying, blocking the doors, and I'm standing behind her wanting to get out! Finally, she figured out it wasn't going to work and moved out of the way.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Our neighborhood drug scene

Yesterday was a short day at work. We surpassed our monthly sales goal (getting sooo close to our annual goal and possible bonus!) that the owners let us shut down 2 hours early. Woohoo!

DH and I been spending the time trying to get some resolve for our excessive traffic to the house at the end our our private road for 3 houses.  It is now the end of the month and our camera recorded over 800 instances of people coming to this house - either in vehicles, on bikes or walking. Just in one month! All stay only minutes and leave.  Several cars go in and out numerous times a day, stay minutes, leave for 10-15 minutes and come back. Repeat over and over.  Several of these cars visit both the house on our street and then go to the drug house behind us.

We do everything we can think of and that is suggested by the police.  We report all the activity to the county drug tip online reporting almost daily. When the activity gets us on overload and it's 2 am or they are racing up and down our private little street, we call the non-emergency dispatch line to report it (I'd say on average a couple times a week). We have installed a security camera system. We have installed more (expensive LED) lighting on our garage that is near the street. We have put up signs around the neighborhood to call the police on all the suspicious activity, etc.

Surprisingly the summer wasn't quite so bad - not that is was good, but it wasn't crazy excessive. Not so, the past couple of months. The house has traffic to and from it non-stop now - averaging 30+ a day and 1000 a month. It seemed to coincide with the kids starting school again and the youngest (approx 16) who now attends an "alternative" high school for 2 1/2 hours each morning, when he goes. It also coincided with the return of the 19 year old son at the exact same time. I know he is a huge reason of the increased traffic, added on to the 16 year old son now getting involved and all the lowlife's he hangs out with at his new alternative high school.

Just the past few weeks there has been a camouflaged painted pick up that goes in and out on average 12-15 times a day. He comes in for a few minutes, leaves for 10-15, same old story. DH had a hunch this morning so he drove over to the alternative high school. Sure enough this pick up, along with several other cars we see go in and out all the time, is parked in the school lot. And sure enough, after they get out at 10:30 this morning (they have to go to school a whole 2 1/2 hours a day!) the pick up has been in and out of here a bunch of times.
DH called and spoke with the security person at the school, just making them aware that our neighbor kid and driver of this truck our is in our neighborhood most likely selling drugs, etc.

Week before last DH went over in person to the sheriff precinct to talk with the new lieutenant. He wasn't available, but the next day a Sargent called back and said they were aware of the neighborhood issue, but offered no resolve and we've heard nothing back since he got to hear our story/complaints.

We called in suspicious activity 3 times between  yesterday afternoon and 2 am this morning. Not once did a deputy come.  One car didn't have a front license plate, one no tail lights. Certainly cause to stop them.

He wrote another letter (it's been since last winter) to our county district councilman, asking for help and I wrote one more LONG report to the drug tip line. I said we are fed up beyond our patience with this, nothing is being done and it's been a year now.

DH called our power company yesterday and we will spend $250 to have them come and put another street light up on our street.

My good neighbor (who mostly buries his head in the sand and lets us do all the work to stop it) called this morning to suggest writing the councilman. I repeated more than once that HE also needs to write. That it coming from 2 neighbors will have much more impact to get help. He also offered to pay for half of the street light, but we said no. He paid for the one that is between our properties and didn't let us chip in (several years ago). He also said that he plans to put up a security camera at this light pole, something else to make them aware we are fed up. Only problem there is its not a wireless camera and he said he has to dig a trench back to run the knowing him it will never get done. He is the biggest procrastinator I know!

1000 incidents of traffic to this one house a month is beyond ridiculous! Even the last deputy DH talked to on the phone said if the narcotics unit was working it they'd have it taken care of in a week or two.
So, we are really hoping the councilman can put some pressure on the sheriff's office to get this place worked and busted. I told DH if they ever finally bust these people and there are some arrests I'm letting off fireworks to celebrate.  These people just need to go away.