Friday, October 31, 2008

Number Crunching 133

Quicken Cash Flow = 594.88
STEF Total = 320.69

October Budget Meeting

Reconciling Quicken with bank statements: Woosh, everything balances. And I have money left over this month. *Boggled*

Reconciling last month’s budget: Why this section took so damn long, has gotten it’s own section down at the bottom of the post. See “The Saga of Balancing GFD zero-balance spreadsheet and the Monthly Tabulation spreadsheet” or skip it. I have to write this stuff down, otherwise I don’t find the problems and I keep making the same stupid math mistakes.
  1. Problem categories:
    • Bank charges – it really wasn’t my fault, but I want this to go away.
    • Eating out – did too much of it, per usual when I get stressed.
  2. Did-good-with categories:
    • STEF – got a good boost. I hope I can keep it up.
  3. Verdict: I’m not going to beat myself up over this month. I have ended with a positive balance.

Leftover amount = 197.25

Creating next month’s budget: Yes, everything balances out in the GFD zero-balance budget without going negative. I LOVE seeing that.

How much cash can I have: I’m wondering if I’m going about my cash expenditures the wrong way. They tend to be whatever is leftover after bills. I’m not going to change that this month, but note it to remember it for December.

Automatic payments: I always wondered what I was supposed to do with this section. Well, now I think I have figured it out after the snafus with Liberty Mutual and GMAC.

October 27th Notes: ARGH! Okay, now I understand WHY so many people bitch about GMAC. They don’t tell me to turn off automatic payments so there’s the October 1st goof-up. They tell me to do a stop payment. My credit union doesn’t tell me to cancel the stop payment when I want to pay GMAC again, so the payment I made October 11th was also stopped. Find out about it today, from a letter GMAC mailed out October 20th, because I was ignoring the harassing phone calls that I’m getting because I’m in default despite being in a repayment plan to fix said default. So I missed the phone call asking what’s up with October 11th. I THINK everything is fixed now, but I still had to redo the stupid repayment thing for the third time and I’m waiting for notification from the credit union that the stopped payment is canceled.

Yeah, that was loads of fun. So now I need to set up the bill payer feature available from my credit union. And then make sure that my paycheck didn’t shift, but if it did make changes so I don’t go past due. I found a calendar feature in Quicken that will make that an easy check.

Totals for the Monthly Tabulation and End-of-Month Balancing Sheet: After much tribulation, I got the Monthly Tabulation for October finished. I marked twelve categories as needed to be reduced. But I think what I’m going to concentrate on reducing is the unnecessary bank fees.

Now I’m going to work the End-of-the-Month Balancing Sheet, and hopefully it will go easier than September and the Tabulation did.

*Pulls out hair* Okay none of the numbers on it make sense or match with what is actually in my accounts. That’s it.

I admit it’s been a while since I cracked open Your Money or Your Life, so I think these are my true feelings without me masking them with “no, you must give it a chance. Change is good.” Change is good. And I like how their ideas make me calculate my real hourly wage, calculate how much life force I’m spending on stuff, how to question if my spending reflects who I really am, and eventually track it so spending becomes thoughtful instead of thoughtless. I’m totally on board with that.

But I hate their spending tracker and I hate their end of the month tally sheet. Every time I get stuck working the budget math it’s on those exercises. Enough is enough. I’m transferring the parts I like the GTD zero-balanced budget sheets, and only using it from now on.

Reviewing short-term savings goals: Still saving up for the $2202 STEF goal. Have $1881.31 to go.

Update NetworthIQ statements: Most of my paperwork for doing this is at home, so this is my reminder to update once I get home.

Update NCN Savings Chart:

Overview and plans:
  1. Printout the GFD zero-balanced spreadsheet each week I update.
  2. Reduce bank charges.
  3. Stay on top of budget work.

The Saga of Balancing GFD zero-balance spreadsheet and the Monthly Tabulation spreadsheet

WOW! I actually got the two of them to agree with each other. And now they don’t match Quicken. *Headdesk*

Each should show I have $196.53 leftover this month, which is what Quicken and my online accounts agree upon. Instead they show I have $892.63 leftover. Didn’t they just balance last week?! What gives?

November 5th Notes: I am signing off on this budget review even if it kills me (which given how my brain feels today is a possibility). I doubt today is the best day to try to wrap my head around math, but I have to finish it! And figure out what the hell went screwy in a week.

To that end, I will have to start keeping weekly printouts as I tweak the Excel spreadsheets. It’s the only way to see difference between the two. Because if I got it to balance with Quicken last week, by the end of this week it should not have $695.38 discrepancy.

Meanwhile, to the problem. Leftover amount for the month should equal the balance in my checking accounts and the cash I have on hand. On October 31st that was $181.53 in checking and $15.72 in cash equals $197.25. (Savings is dollars already allocated, so they don’t figure into the leftover amount.) Quicken and my online statements both agree on this amount.

Enter all income received and expenses spent into the spreadsheets. Subtract expenses from income. Both spreadsheets come up with $892.63 as the remaining money leftover. Here’s the kicker: I use Quicken reports to get the numbers I put in the spreadsheets. Even though I don’t think I missed anything in the spreadsheets, I go back and double check it against Quicken’s Itemized Categories for October.

All the categories totals match the same categories on the spreadsheet. So I didn’t miss filling out a category. Checked the register report from Quicken. No $695.38 entry. *Headdesk*

Okay, new strategy. The Monthly Tabulation is broken down by the week, because it was taking too long to put a whole month in by itself. So now, I’m going to look at each week in isolation from the others and see what the numbers do then. Took a little more math than expected because I had to figure out what the amount would be for each week starting at zero, instead of having a running balance.

Week 1 (Oct. 1st – 3rd) = spreadsheet and figures don’t match. Realize I forgot about the second checking account, which had a negative balance at the time. Tweaked for that and numbers still don’t match. Tweak again and it still doesn’t match, but only off by $5.22 now. Find register reports to go over each of the entries. Find I have to adjust the balance I am expecting because of forgetting things like interest and the stop payment fee transaction that was done through my savings account. I didn’t miss anything and the spreadsheet shows an extra $8.27 spent. *Headdesk Income is right. *Blink Expenses from my tally comes up $7.86 under the spreadsheet’s total. How is that possible? FOUND IT! Keypunch data entry error. Stupid me put down $7.86 in a square where a SUM formula should be. Now Week 1 is in balance and I made the correction on the official full month sheet.

Week 2 (Oct. 4th – 10th) = there is only a discrepancy of $1.64 between the two totals. Hopefully this won’t take forever to track down. But first a break to get some chocolate that I don’t need but badly crave. It’s partial stress eating, partial reward eating. Both bad for me, but DAMNIT, I’m doing the math instead of writing what more do you want!

Okay had chocolate and a new chapter of Tin Man smut to read, I’m calmer now. And my calculations are off by $6.44. Income tally matches, so does this mean I keep making goofy mistakes with my expenses? I guess that is a yes, since my expense tally is $460.20 off from the spreadsheet’s total. *Hits forehead I forgot my deductions. Added those in and it’s only $4.87 difference between them now. Okay, forgot the interest parts of two paid off loans. Now the expense tallies both match, and I think I need to redo the balance I was expecting to find. I’m so bleeding close I can taste it.

Okay, now the discrepancy is $6.44. Alright, after much number crunching and searching, I realize where one issue is, I messed up how the Pelican Loan payoff amount was put in. I have the interest portion coming out of my pocket when it was paid off by the amount given when I redid the loans. Now I’m off to test if this fixes things. Okay expenses match now, but I still have the slight issue of the totals not matching. I calculate I should be left with $418.80 this week and the spreadsheet comes up with $421.79, which is a difference of $2.99 ARGH, now that would be an amount of the car loan’s interest! Okay, take out that because the bank paid it and I didn’t. Achieved balance. Cut and pasted to the original month’s spreadsheet.

Week 3 (Oct. 11th – 17th) = oh that is really just not right. My calculations say there should be $121.44 leftover. The spreadsheet says $808.58 for a difference of $687.14. I wonder if trying to balance the federal budget started off like this and just snowballed. First thing, check my tally. Okay, it came out the same. Onto the income check. Income works out fine. I’m trying to take heart that I don’t screw up that side of the equation.

Expense check: Well, I found the problem. I’m missing $720.36 from that side of the equation. Time to find out what was entered and what wasn’t. Oh I am the BIGGEST IDIOT in the world! I can’t add an amount taken out of savings in the income section and subtract it from the expense section. Goober, just subtract the amount that was moved into the second savings account.

Well, fixing that brought things down a whole lot, but now it’s under what I had tallied by $82.62.

I really, really, really, really hate that Capital One account. Veterans Day I need to go find out what happened to the check that never cleared so I can close the damn headache and not worry about it anymore.

Okay, I have expenses balanced now. So I think where I screwed up was in my tally. Since I paid off Capital One’s negative balance during this week I put it down for zero. How ever if I change that back to the negative amount? $38.82, and balance. Posted to the original monthly balance sheet. Its leftover balance has dropped significantly, but I still have to go over it once I have all the weeks finished.

Week 4 (Oct. 18th – 24th) = after the last week, this one isn’t too bad. Spreadsheet has $472.85 and I came up with $457.27, a difference of only $15.58. Check my tally. Tally appears to be right. Check income. Income matches. Now to check the expenses. Left off one expense, and fixing that made the week fall in line.

Week 5 (Oct. 25th – Oct. 31st) = the expense from the week before got added to this week took that out and everything balanced.

Once I moved Week 5 back over, I’m ready to deal with the whole month again. Now it says the leftover amount is $110.42. My tally says it should be $197.25. The first issue I found was I forgot to move the fixed Week 1 to the full month. Replace that data, and I get $114.63 leftover, giving me a difference of $82.62. I hate Capital One! Back to the categories to double check that I have the proper totals.

*Headdesk* You can’t put two negatives in. You can’t put two negative in. You can’t put two negatives in. I don’t plan on having a negative balance ever again so hopefully it will NEVER happen again. I’m fairly certain that’s what has happened in the GFD zero-balanced spreadsheet too, along with the minor problems in the categories that I mentioned above.

HUZZAH! HUZZAH! It finally balances! They all finally balance! Everything balances together! Snoopy dance, happy dance, dance of joy! Now I can finally FINISH the budget review!

Read Free!
The BookWorm

Monday, October 27, 2008

Is Today Over With Yet?

Stop the world, I’m going to HURL!

That hasn’t worked yet. I don’t know why I think it will work now. Today started off so well. I got up on time, got my writing and planning done, got lunch packed, left for work on time, successfully filled up tank and avoided traffic mess that could have made me late.

Then I had to call GMAC Mortgage and find out what was up with the letter they sent.

They don’t tell me to turn off automatic payments so there’s the October 1st goof-up. They tell me to do a stop payment. My credit union doesn’t tell me to cancel the stop payment when I want to pay GMAC again, so the payment I made October 11th was also stopped. Why it took until today to find out was due to me ignoring the harassing phone calls that I’m getting because I’m in default despite being in a repayment plan to fix said default. So I missed the phone call asking what’s up with October 11th. I THINK everything is fixed now, but I still had to redo the stupid repayment thing for the third time and I’m waiting for notification from the credit union that the stopped payment is canceled.

So yes, I’m alive. The weekend was fun, up until I spent too much money on groceries. I think I’m going to survive November. If you want to see the NaNo decision, read Discipline Under Fire.

Oh, and I HAVE been keeping up with finances, but I keep leaving the finishing posts at home and then forgetting to post them when I’m there.

Read Free!
The BookWorm

Friday, October 24, 2008

Number Crunching 132

I may actually end up with a positive balance this month. I still have about a week to go in the month, so I’m not trying to get ahead of myself, but I have to admit to feeling positive about the situation.

Quicken Cash Flow = 1382.22
STEF Total = 320.69

Enter receipts into Quicken and everything reconciles. I also learned a new trick. I can limit the register reports by date. I’m also considering using Quicken Online, if it works with the credit union account. If not, using a combination of register reports and itemized categories reports when I have to take the math to work with me will work.

I found a mistake in my zero-balance spreadsheet that may have led to the problems I had last week balancing the spreadsheets. I had mixed up my Federal Taxes deduction and my LASERs contribution from my first paycheck.

And I still don’t know why I have to keep making adjustments to make the zero-balance spreadsheet and the monthly tabulation balance when they are using the same data. I’m not worrying too much about it right now. If it keeps being a reoccurring problem, then I’ll dissect them both. What I want is to be able to create a spending plan and analyze my spending trends, something I haven’t found easy to do with Quicken. (You can only set-up a budget year between January and December, for example.) But I haven’t found what works best for me, hence running so many.

Shower Rebuild Experiment
Train of thought from October 23rd as follows.

I need to workout more. I don’t like feeling icky after workouts. I need a shower. I should just build one in the yard. Soon it’ll be too cold for a camp shower. Why not put a camp shower in the bathtub?

I stopped midstride getting off the elevator. Luckily, my legs are used to diverted thought process and kept going so I wasn’t crushed in the elevator doors.

As I have considered solutions to my shower deficiency, that idea had never occurred to me. I only looked at camp showers to add to my medieval camping set-up. There are a few options: propane-heated systems, bags that heat with solar power, and a powered hose that you put in a body of water.

The solar-heated bag looks like the best option. I can fill it with hot water if I can’t get enough sunlight in through the window. I just have my doubts it’ll feel like a real shower or rinse my hair clean.

My other option that I have been holding out on because it looks bad and I tore it out when I moved into the house is jury-rigging a shower. I also don’t want a plumbing disaster which I’m positive will happen.

Here’s the way my logical mind is dissecting the problem.

Step 1. Attach a flexible hose to the cold water garden hose faucet and the hot water garden hose faucet.

Option 1. 2 Whirlpool ¾” flexible connectors 18” long = 24.77
Option 2. Swan 5/8” x 6’ hose reel leader hose = 6.98
4 Gilmour Metal Female Coupling = 12.84

Option 1 has female ends but I have no idea if the size fits garden hose faucets. Option 2 would need to be cut and the female couplings added (disaster waiting to happen).

Step 2. The hot water flexible hose and cold water flexible hose screw into a Y connector.

Plumb Pak Cast Metal Y Connector = 2.78

Step 3. Y Connector is screwed into the end of the hand-held shower.

Water Pic Handheld Chrome Shower Massager = 24.98 (I could go cheaper without massager feature but I don’t recognize the brands. With plumbing, I go with brand names.)

This is also the step that worries me. Do I need an adapter? How to install page is talking about a pipe with a male end and the hose on a hand-held shower having a female end. All the male to male adapters change sizes too.

Male hose adapter = 2.00

Both options assume I can get everything to fit together properly and don’t have to face dealing with really incompatible size differences.

Jury-rig Shower Option 1 Total = 89.63

Jury-rig Shower Option 2 Total = 84.68

Solar Camping Shower Option = 60.09

Cheapest option is the camping shower, but I just saw a different picture with it in use. I’m not impressed by the water flow. My hair is thick and likes to hold soap.

So that leaves the jury-rigging options, IF after all my pricing and puzzling, I can make it work. I’m trying to move between bathroom-sized plumbing to outdoor-sized plumbing, asking of course, WHY can’t it all be the same size?

Still, my 4% raise started on this paycheck (only one week, the first paycheck of November will reflect all changes) and I generally like to celebrate that I got that. A whole bathroom remodel is out of the question until I can save for it. A shower would make me happy. So I guess I’m going to Lowe’s tonight.

I ended up at Lowe’s TWICE in one night. First off, I found a third cheaper jury-rigging option: a Y connecting hose for a washing machine. I hadn’t even looked online at washing machine parts. So first trip to Lowe’s cost $43.88. Because I couldn’t face Wal-Mart, I spent $17.40 at Fred’s for shower curtains and hooks. What I saved on cheaper curtains got spent on heavy-duty hooks. Y hose fits the garden hose faucets I have, and it ends in a male connector so I should be able to screw the shower hose directly to it, yeah! Only that doesn’t work. They are both the same size and the male end needs to be smaller to fit in the shower hose. I have forgotten actual sizes. Back to Lowe’s, where they are out of the perfect adapter piece and I have to buy two adapters to work. Second Lowe’s trip equals $10.20. Still cheaper than the online pricing I had done, so I’m happy.

Screw with plumbing tape all the parts together and test. Have a spraying leak at the cold water garden hose faucet. Tape and tighten with pliers. Then realize the leak is actually spraying from the screw in the faucet (what you turn to get water). Still have no clue how to fix that and decides it doesn’t matter. I can bunch extra shower curtain between the leak and the wall. String up the shower curtain.

Now I was able to save money because many moons ago, someone in my family screwed pipes in the wall and ceiling to make a shower curtain rod. I’m sure it was a way to store extra pipe they had at the time. The pipes make an L over the bathtub and a metal wire was ran along the wall side to hand shower curtains on it.

However when I hung the shower curtains from Fred’s I discovered two problems. First, two shower curtains did not encircle the whole bathtub. Okay, kind of expected that. Second problem, the standard shower curtain length of 70 inches only reached the top of the tub.

I tested it with a quick shower. With the curtains pulled around only half the bathtub so to cover all the wood, me handing to hold the hand-held shower the whole time because the included bracket would only go on the end of showerhead pipe, and having to make sure I didn’t accidently hit the gap between the tub and the curtains with the stream of water while making sure I got clean and kept the other shower curtain from sticking to my ass; the experience was less the nirvana I had been craving. The shower curtains also did not like to stay on the C-shaped hooks I had bought. The packaging was destroyed in my effort to get them out so taking them back was out.

I ended up spending $27.79 at Wal-Mart to finish the project. Good news, they stocked extra-long shower curtains. I also bought S-shaped hooks. I tacked the too-short shower curtains to the two wood walls, cutting holes for the faucets and making sure they got tacked down extra because of the spraying leak. Since I didn’t have to worry about the walls anymore, two extra-long shower curtains was enough to block off the open sides of the bathtub. I worried because I opted for the version without magnets in the bottom, but during the test shower, they didn’t try to attach themselves to any body parts. I ended up not using a whole box of hooks and they will go back.

However, the solution for the lack of bracket is well, less than perfect. I ended up taking two huge nails I had leftover from another project, and hammered them into the wall so they hold the shower head up. I didn’t measure and they don’t let the shower angle downward, so I found out I can stand right beneath it and shampoo my hair under the water stream.

But I have shower now. And Mustard was fascinated by the rain on the shower curtain up until I went to get a camera and document his cuteness. Maybe he’ll forget about it and be fascinated all over again when I take my next shower.

Plans for next week
  • Check out Quicken Online as a way to constantly update but reduce printing.
  • Need to redo Budget_exercise_01 file
  • Post pictures of the shower under a separate post once off of camera.

Read Free!
The BookWorm

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


"What "health of the mother" looks like" by Jim C. Hines

When I was a teenager and still being brainwashed by the Southern Baptist Church, pro-life vs. pro-choice came up. My mother never really told me what I should believe in and I was leaning heavily toward "pro-life" because why would decent people want to kill an innocent baby. (Like I said, I was young and therefore naive and the Religious Reich (stolen term but fits so well) preys on this.) She only said once, "Five girls in my class in high school died from the illegal abortions they got. At least now, the abortions won't kill you."

I don't want kids. My mother had to have C-sections because of the shape of her body, a shape I inherited. With diabetes looming over my health, I probably would develop it if I got pregnant. Luckily, being on birth control doesn't hurt my body, so I don't have to deal with condescending doctors swearing I'll change my mind. (Dude, it hasn't changed since seventh grade. It didn't change when I held my nephew when he was six-weeks-old.) But it should never being anyone's decision but mine, the hypothetical father's, and my doctor's. Why is this such a hard thing to understand? And I'm glad I'm not alone in wanting people to just leave Roe vs. Wade ALONE and punching McCain in the mouth repeatedly.

Besides "the fundamentalist whackos never let anything go and must conform the world" argument, I find some information in Marriage and Families in the Middle Ages by Frances Gies and Joseph Gies. As the Christian church was establishing itself, one of the local customs it fought against was abortion and abandoning an unwanted infant to die from exposure. However, it doesn't look like anyone within the institution since (both Catholic and Protestant version) has bothered to examine how to change this policy in light of what advances we have made medically. And it has been twisted into a way to punish women. So I guess it's really just a sub-argument of the fundamentalist whackos can't let anything go argument. *Shrug*

Anyways, Jim's rant is a lot more eloquent than I have managed to be. Go read.

Read Free!
The BookWorm

Monday, October 20, 2008

Distracted Weekend

Okay, it’s kind of sad when you have to count personal hygiene items as getting something done (I really hate shaving my legs, okay? So it counts).

The real problem was the computer. As in not running properly. By not running properly, I mean constantly going to ‘Not Responding’ while I’m trying to read on Firefox, type in Word, or look up info in Quicken. My computer is supposed to be able to handle all of this.

So I went in, deleted a bunch of programs I’m not using, turned off some automatic start-up shit I don’t need, cleaned off everything but my data files, ran Avast and Ad-ware, and wanted to run disk defrag before rebooting.

Only disk defrag said “yes, you need to; however I prefer to have 15% empty memory to work with. Only 4% is available.” Okay, time to clean out My Docs, My Music, My Pictures, and anything else that occurs to me.

I spent all day Sunday in My Pictures without getting a single archival CD burnt. Fair amount deleted because I ended up with multiples of many pictures. My organizing system also blows and hard. I can get started with an idea to organize around but it falls apart with the next folder. Some images I had forgotten about completely and I had snagged them because I thought they were cool. Worse would be finding artwork I snagged without grabbing the artist’s name. I can’t always identify by the style. And it makes me feel bad because if I color it, I can’t even ask permission to show it.

Anyways, I didn’t get anything else on my list done, I didn’t even get My Pictures done, and my computer is still acting like a slugtard. I wanted to get to work on the updates for the websites, but can’t do that until the computer stops spazzing. Some coding I can do over lunch break and some I would prefer to do at home and some has to be done at home because I don’t have the program I need at work. For this shit, I really miss the laptop.

How long do I think My Pictures will take? First, I need a reliable organizing principle that I won’t forget. Second, I need to organize the graphic files accordingly. Third, I need to decide what can be safely archived—i.e. don’t need for current or future projects. Fourth, burn and label CDs. Fifth, delete files from harddrive. So deceptively simple.

I’m also considering joining NaNo officially this year. I don’t have any other pressing projects taking up the month of November, and I get four days off from the paying job. It’s three weeks of shortened commute. Still being wishy-washy about it, but I need to make a decision by the end of the week.

Read Free!
The BookWorm

Friday, October 17, 2008

Number Crunching 131

Quicken Cash Flow = 472.74
STEF Total = 320.69

Looky, looky, a positive balance in both! Okay, my net worth looks worse than shit, but let’s focus on the positives right now, ‘kay?

Now here’s where I really don’t understand about my math skills. Quicken agrees with my online statements and is all caught up. Great. Work up the month’s income and expenditures using zero-based budget method. Doesn’t match with Quicken and the online statements. Work up the month’s income and expenditures using the monthly tabulation method. Doesn’t match with Quicken, the online statements, and the zero-based budget. Fist around hair and pull.

Though the goofiest thing is both Excel spreadsheets need the same amount to be added in to adjust them. Okay, at least something is balancing in the budget, right? I can’t figure out why. I started October with $0.00.

I thought about figuring out the breakdown of what I’m paying toward principle and what I’m paying in interest for my mortgage while I was trying to get the mess straightened out, but now I’ve decided I don’t care enough. I can have fun with that when I’m trying to pay off the mortgage.

I didn’t get many of my goals accomplished for finances this week. I think I’ve been in recovery mode. Last week severely tested my stress levels and I don’t think I’m recovered yet.

Now we’ve made it to Step Four in Your Money or Your Life. You evaluate your spending by asking three questions about the total spent in each of your subcategories:
  1. Did I receive fulfillment, satisfaction, and value in proportion to life energy spent?
  2. Is this expenditure of life energy in alignment with my values and life purposes?
  3. How might this expenditure change if I didn’t have to work for a living?

On the Monthly Tabulation spreadsheet, under the total dollars and total life energy spent, you need three lines to keep track of each of these questions. And in the interest of staying short, I’m going to concentrate on one of these questions a week. So how do you track the answers? If you received so much fulfillment from one category, mark it with a plus sign (+). If you received little or no fulfillment, use a minus sign (-). If the expense fills okay as is, mark the box with a zero (0).

Urk, I have to fix September’s monthly tabulation for the problems I figured out in October. I discovered I goofed up my putting my FSA spending in off my regular income. Okay, I’m done fixing things. Time to get back to the actual question.

Categories to make changes in:
  • Eating Out – I do too much of it. In September, I spent 32.665 life hours on dining. Minus.
  • Electricity – part of this was it was two months on one bill, but I think I need to reduce there. Minus.
  • Natural Gas – same thing as Electricity. Minus.
  • Phone – I have taken steps to reduce this bill and have more steps to take. Hopefully, the steps will work because I wasn’t happy with the amount. Minus.
  • Garbage Removal – actually not a dig on the price, but I’m not happy with the service. My garbage is getting picked up every other week and I don’t know why, and when I call this time I’m asking for a reduction or credit or something. Minus.
  • Entertainment: Books – I loved what I purchased and was so glad to read it, but this was the wrong month to buy a book. Minus.
  • Computer games – I love Big Fish Games, I just can’t afford the subscription right now. I already stopped it. Minus.
  • Gasoline – need to drive as least as possible. I can’t be positive about it because of my lack of tracking, but I think the cost of gasoline was a contributing factor to me getting so off whack. Minus.
  • Auto Service – I need to get the car serviced so I don’t end up with big repair bills for ignoring maintenance. Plus.
  • Previous Month’s Negative Balance – I shouldn’t even have this category. Minus.
  • Roth IRA – I have one do to my complete inability to forecast my financial needs and I would like to add to it. Plus.
  • Tootsie Roll bank – I don’t care how I add to savings as long as I do. Plus.
  • STEF – Yeah, we already know this needs to be fund completely. Plus.
  • FSA Medical – I’m not happy with the amount I put on it this year. I think it was too much. Minus. But there’s nothing I can do until next April, so I will probably give this category a zero from now on.
  • Deferred Compensation Plan – right now, only 2.5% of my salary is going into it, making my entire retirement contribution 10%. I want to get it up to 15% to 20% eventually. Plus.
  • NSFs – Damn, I want this category to go down in the worst way. I said I wasn’t going to have any in October. How should I know that was practically a shout out to Murphy? Minus.
  • Transfer Fee – I’m allowed so many free automatic transfers between my savings account and my checking. When I use them all, they charge a fee. If I’m watching and do the transfer myself, no fee. Guess what I have to do from now on? Minus

The authors promise that asking yourself this question consistently, helps you identify your problem areas and make positive changes in them. Well, they actually say shopping behaviors, since that’s where most over-spending problems first develop. I’ll have to see how this list compares to October’s version.

Plans for next week:
Finish what I already have on my lists to do.

Read Free!
The BookWorm

Monday, October 13, 2008

Not an Idiot This Week

The week is young. I don’t want to recount the pain that I have already put in the Number Crunching posts. I think I’m still in recovery from that. Mom and I are still feuding. Dad came to talk to me about it, and I found out she started making up shit.

IF I hadn’t told her exactly what I had bought (and transferred the money out of savings for, don’t miss that fact!) and wouldn’t bother me as much that she’s going around telling people I earned NSFs for buying a $0.25 candy bars. Second off, when’s the last time she bought a candy bar? You know at least, my obsession with making things up is correctly labeled FICTION!

Fine, she was hurting, didn’t listen (never listens), doesn’t want me over there, wants to be a bloody hypocrite as in do as I say and don’t pitch a fit when I go around spreading lies about you, and I won’t get an apology for her blowing up OR the lying which of course she didn’t do. :p I remove myself from unhealthy situations. I’ve been coming straight home and eating leftovers.

On the bright side, Friday night, I ended up calling Kai and Atticus tried to show me his octopus over the phone. It’ll be really cool when he learns some volume control of his voice and how to aim into the phone microphone. LOL I heard “hello” from him a lot.

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The BookWorm

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Number Crunching 130

Quicken Cash Flow = $643.26
STEF Total = $320.69

Everything has been entered into Quicken and reconciled with the online accounts. And I was sure to print out the online totals AFTER close of business on Saturday. The rest of the post will explain.

I see how easily it is for me to fall into the “I can’t win so I don’t give a shit” frame of mind. I’ve been fighting it off hard this week. I already explained the goof-up with GMAC Mortgage. I finished my paperwork; posted Number Crunching 129; paid the water bill; purchased gasoline, groceries, toilet paper, and cat food; and transferred everything out of savings to cover those purchases.

For all the fucking good it did me.

Okay, so I’m still a little bitter.

In Tuesday’s mail, I had two overdraft notices from my credit union. The first one is because Liberty Mutual hit my account for the past due amount on October 3rd. Point One: not when I pay that bill. Point Two: exactly what I had called and canceled with them on September 25th after I didn’t have money for it then. Thanks to me not checking my online account Friday night or Saturday morning, everything that hit my account after that point had an overdraft fee. My savings transfers didn’t make a dent.

Tuesday night, I was told that Liberty Mutual was really sorry and waived their bounced check fee and promised to refund my overdraft charge at the credit union. I should have negotiated for all of them, but I didn’t think of it while I was on the phone with them. Wednesday morning, I fax a printout of my online statement showing where the attempt to get the money only earned me an overdraft fee and messed everything up.

Thursday morning, I check the balance after I got paid. I had enough money for the house note with $65.90 leftover. That’s not even enough to pay off my deficit from last month. The eight overdraft charges cost me $200, which was my phone bill, the deficit, gasoline, groceries, and electric bill.

I’m not typing my string of cuss words. Insert your own.

I called Liberty Mutual back since I didn’t see $25.00 added back to my account. “Oh no, we wouldn’t hit your account twice. We would wait until it was your bill time again. So this isn’t our fault, but I will email the guy who promised you that.”

Okay, time to go discuss it with the credit union. Two hours spent there. The verdict: it hit your checking account because they sent it, and if you can get a letter from them admitting that it’s their fault, we can send the overdraft fees to another department for review. But you probably won’t get the money back.

Actually that, didn’t take the whole two hours. While I was there, I asked if they could refinance my car loan and personal loan with them to try to bring the monthly bill down. We got them combined into one and stretched out to 60 months, which means I only have to pay $233.96—a savings of $112.80 a month. Yes, I know this is just reshuffling my debt, but I don’t have to start paying until November 21st, so I also gained a little breathing room to get control.

So what about reducing my utilities, which are the only bills whose prices are not carved in stone? I called AT&T and they can save me a whole $5 off a $100.73 bill. And there’s no point to dropping any features, because they use the taxes, fees, and surcharges to bring it right back up again. No, they can’t save me money on a cable bill I don’t have nor my cell phone service that I don’t trust them with. So I’ve been pricing Vonage according to the Internet sites and this is what I come up with.
Start-up Costs
Price of adapter: 46.99 – 79.99
AT&T DSL: 32.95
AT&T Surcharges: 8.04
AT&T Taxes: 2.83
Vonage start-up promotion: 10.95
Total Start-up costs = 101.76 – 134.76

Average Monthly Costs
AT&T DSL: 32.95
AT&T Surcharges: 8.04
AT&T Taxes: 2.83
Vonage Charge $24.99
FUSF (VoIP) $2.05
County 911 Fee $1.00
Regulatory Recovery Fee $0.99
Emergency 911 Cost Recovery $0.99
Average Monthly Costs = 73.84 = savings of $21.89 a month

The problem is the initial set-up costs. I just don’t have the spare $100 now. I looked for other providers of high-speed Internet, and all I have is the cable company. They state outright that the only price you can find listed is the six-month promotional price, so no. If I don’t know what it will go up to be, I don’t trust you with my business.

I’m afraid Atmos and Demco bills can only be reduced by less usage, though I’m tempted to see if either one of them offers an energy audit.

Citifinancial says I can refinance on the advertisements they send on the invoices, but do I believe them?

And I should be getting $50 back from Datapath that I spent out of pocket because my FSA card wasn’t working, but I don’t know when that will happen.

I don’t know exactly what my next course of action should be. It’s fine to say “get a second job” but I haven’t heard anything on the applications I have submitted. Did I ask for too much money? Are they only looking for day shift people? No clue. Go back to Convergys? I’d rather eat glass. Online searches for part-time positions have drawn a blank. And I’m out of stuff to sell. I ruled out egg donation when I found out how much prodding has to be done.

That leaves my Internet project, which will take time to develop. And selling my writing. I had notes on that from a few months back, but I don’t know where I stored those. So this weekend means a search of the filing cabinet.

OH GODDAMNIT! Well I canceled auto bill pay for AT&T, and they are kind enough to send me an email telling me it can take up to one billing cycle for the change to go into effect. I’m going to have to borrow money from Dad for it and the electric bill. SHMEG! At least, they were kind enough to tell me.

Oh, had a fun fight with Mom. I have such a low tolerance for hypocrisy it isn’t funny. Yeah, this whole mess is entirely my fault why? For believe a company when they said they wouldn’t do an automatic payment that didn’t even MATCH any of my other bills from them. Yeah, Quicken just confirmed that, but it’s all my fault for not coming to them BEFORE Liberty Mutual took a payment that told them not to, at the wrong time of the month, and I didn’t know about. Yeah, I pissed away $200 in bank fees is an accurate statements of facts there.

There doesn’t even seem to be a Liberty Mutual office I can go in person to—just agents. I don’t know what to do or how to fight this.

Son of a bitch. I finally got my official September statements from the credit union. Liberty Mutual did the exact same thing in September, over August’s premium. Now I really don’t know what to do.

October 11: Someday, I’m going to finish this in one day, like I’m supposed to. About midnight, after three crying jags, I found a loan teaser from Republic Finance. It is for more than I need )I estimated between $325 – 375 to get me to my neck check) and it’s borrowing to try to get out of debt, which I KNOW doesn’t work, but I am out of options. So I accepted the loan.

I also had a fun panic attack with GMAC Mortgage this morning. When I did the stop payment that they told me to, they canceled the repayment plan. It’s a good thing I don’t have heart problems.

Now I have to pay Republic Finance $89 a month, so there went my debt payment savings. But at least my electric or phone won’t get shut off and I won’t bounce anything and I can still afford the gas to get to work. I’m shoving more of the money out of my hands too. I should give it back to Republic Finance, but well after everything that has happened, I’m a little freaked out and want to keep it in the STEF.

I just considered something. I’m going to switch all bills I can to the bill payer the credit union has now that it is fee-less. But when I’m supposed to check auto payments in my monthly reviews, I think I’m supposed to make sure my paychecks didn’t shift on my payments. I found a calender feature in Quicken that will make that an easy check.

Office Depot no longer carried VoIP adapters, but the salesclerk was helpful in explaining to set up everything with Vonage first, then cancel phone service. I think I will give them a call and double check because I don’t want to lose another phone number.

I paid GMAC Mortgage, Liberty Mutual overdue, Demco, AT&T, Citifinancial, filled the car up, did a tiny bit of shopping, and a tiny bit of eating out. And I have some options on how to pay Liberty Mutual next year: monthly, quarterly, semi-annually, and annually.

I talked to Liberty Mutual again, and I probably won’t get a refund from them or the credit union, but I at least get a chance to write out my complaints and hopefully someone will change the script for the call center people.

I’m moving onto Your Money or Your Life now before things get worse.

“Budgets, like diets, don’t work.” (76) So I’m hardly the first with a just-say-no and use-your-willpower problem. So if we aren’t using the typical spend-only this amount-or-burn-in-hell approach, what do we do?

Step Three is Monthly Tabulation. After you have kept track of every penny for a month, you need establish spending categories that reflect the uniqueness of your life. The authors warn about doing this step on the computer. You can get more addicted to the program than the information in it. But I’m putting the information into Quicken already (because I can’t keep finances straight in a checkbook register) and because I won’t afflict my handwriting on the unsuspecting, I’m working it up in Excel.

Okay, filling in that chart is going to be added to the Weekly Review, otherwise, it takes forever. Granted I did have to do a lot of formatting and figuring out the formulas, but I still think it will take to long to fill that out with everything else I have in the monthly budget review. If I fill it out each week, I will only have to total.

Okay, I finished Step Three for September. I’m not sure what I make of it. The Monthly Tabulation has three parts. The first two are done on the tabulation chart: a). outline spending and income and b). calculate how much Life Energy each category cost you. That part worked fine. The third step was the end of the month balance sheet, and that’s where I’m not sure if my math was right for September. We’ll see if it works out for October when I have been keeping better track of everything.

Plans for next week:
  • Write letter to Liberty Mutual
  • Fax package to Liberty Mutual
  • Talk to Vonage about shift services
  • Research
  • Cook out the pantry

Read Free!
The BookWorm

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Fanfiction Meme

Sometimes it’s okay to pimp yourself out. Post a list of your top five favorite fics you’ve written, regardless of fandom or the reason you love them. This isn’t about the BEST things you’ve written, but what you LOVE most. Then tag five other people to do the same. -- By Erin Ptah: Fanfiction Meme

Oh boy, this should be fun.

Tin Man: Dragons and Ninjas There are fandoms I enjoy without needing to writing fanfics set in them. Hellsing for example, Doctor Who came perilously close and he may get a cameo appearance. So when I initially found some Tin Man fanvids on YouTube, I made a playlist. Then the playlist led to reading fanfiction that the video makers said inspired them. No biggie. Then I downloaded Tin Man to double check some of the fanfics. Next thing I know is Zack Baker from my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles stories has teamed up with another princess and I was buried in the story. Since it has been years since I experienced this type of writing frenzy, I went with it.

It's a what happens after the lame ending of the miniseries, filling holes in Zack and Lyle's friendship (that still isn't full written out on paper), DG dealing with her parents, and Zack coming clean about all his crossovers. I was given the word "Zackverse" to describe those stories, and I can't wait to actually get to use it. Little did I know, that this story isn't the last crossover for Zack. (He's bitching at me already. I think my muse told him what is in store in the next one.) P.S. This isn't the one with Betsy in it; I'm writing that one sorta right now.

Wars Are Won By Those Who Dare: Family, Friends, and Foes Yeap, another crossover but at least this one is set on one world. Biker Mice From Mars, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and the characters from Kung Fu: The Legend Continues all live on the same planet Earth, which happens to be called the Other Side in Tin Man. It is a sequel in both my TMNT and BMFM series. Val Tech discovers the Turtles and now they're on the run. But things really explode once they reach Chicago. The bros are being chased by mutated humans who aren't working for Limburger. And Chi-town is shaken by the arrival of two more vigilante groups who are attacked by Limburger. Can the mysterious Ronin pull the good guys together? Or will Manuelo's family pay the price?

This was the first crossover I attempted combining the whole casts, rather than just dropping one or two characters into another group. I didn't think I would EVER reach the end of it.

The Legend of Zelda: Verge of Destruction Now this was the first fanfic I ever wrote on paper and let other people read. The first version was written back in 1992 because during a discussion of the video games it was pointed out there was room for another Triforce. And I wanted to give the cartoon Link and Zelda a swift kick in butts. If I had only known what I was getting into.

Gargoyles: A Mist of Prophecies: A Storm of Things Foreseen The first fanfic I publish on the Internet and learned what Mary Sue was, probably the opposite way every other fanfic writer has learned the definition. My first review for this story was "Not a Mary Sue peice at all! Wow!" Which only led to much head scratching on my part, because I had never heard of the term "Mary Sue" before. See I had created the character Cassandra first (reading Greek tragedies for a grade and watching mind-blowing animation lead to strange places) mainly as an exercise on how the Cassandra from Greek theater/myth could exist in the Gargoyles universe. I liked her so much, when I joined into the Gargoyles fandom, I used her name as my handle. When the Gargoyles Saga took a summer break and I wrote up a story with her in it, I posted it with the "Cassandra" handle. I switched to The BookWorm or KLCtheBookWorm after that review and that is the only Internet handle I have now.

Wars Are Won By Those Who Dare: Reunions Is it possible to love a story to bits? I have a warm spot in my heart for the Biker Mice From Mars and the first three stories in the Wars Are Won By Those Who Dare series because I was sloughing my way through two semesters of Spanish taken during the summer in order to graduate with my Bachelor's in August 2000. I am not kidding when I say writing these fanfics about the fuzzy boys kept me SANE.

It was also a MASSIVE rewrite of the first two BMFM fanfics I had attempted back in high school when the show was on the air. So much of a rewrite and re-exploration, that I now have a thirty-plus series outlined for the Biker Mice. And that's not counting the separate Zackverse stuff. But it also is backstory for our heroes that is only hinted at, romance, and the introduction of my two favorite original characters: Sparks and Hot Rod. (My third favorite character, Bayonet, and second favorite couple is slated to be introduced in another story.)

Read Free!
The BookWorm

Monday, October 06, 2008

Procrastination Makes Me an Idiot

My graduation with a Masters has probably fallen back to May 2009. If I’m lucky, I won’t have to pay double (becoming a stupid tax). If I’m lucky, I can still finish my graduation exam and the final, final paper this semester (Unless they have a more awesome way to graduate next semester).

How did this happen? Part of it was the week lost to Gustav. I had planned for that week to go to SLU and get everything in line, instead, the state went into emergency mode for a week.

Yeah, but you could have picked up all planning on September 8th? This is where I was a damn lazy git who floated along with inertia. Kept telling myself I’d find a paper tomorrow, I’d email tomorrow, I’d go to campus tomorrow. Until it was October and I woke up.

So now I have three emails I’m waiting for responses on, and have scheduled a trip to the campus on Tuesday to turn in my study carrel and see if I can still use the gym (I paid through Dec. 2008 but I’m not taking classes). And I’m going through the computer files for a paper I’d like to expand.

I guess there lies the rub. I don’t really want to do any of them. Did I have my heart set on the fiction thesis too long? Is it fear that I’m going to be exposed as a horrid scholar and I’ve been faking it for my entire life? (This is an actual psychologist-studied fear. I just can’t remember what it is called.) Am I burnt out again or just bored and want something new? All of the above?

Regardless, I still want the diploma that I can hopefully use to leverage more pay at the DOI (not holding my breath though). If not, other opportunities maybe enhanced by being able to say “I have an English Master’s.” And I do feel a little disappointed in myself. It’s the exact same behavior I showed as an undergrad when my Scholars’ College these would not gel. But I don’t have the option of switching colleges and scraping by this time. Which is a good thing, I’d rather not reenact the nervous breakdown on the Dean’s secretary.

I’m not beating myself up about it, just ruefully wondering if I need an assistant/keeper. Maybe I’d be better with schedules if I worried about disappointing someone. Disappointing myself hasn’t made much of a difference. :p

Found four possibilities for final, final paper and the need to reorganize my SLU folder holding all the written drafts. Apparently, some semesters I didn’t bother with making a folder for the class. I wanted to have at least five and I should make it six since two choices have the same professor. My computer is acting up again: deciding what programs I should go to and not opening what I tell it to open. And it usually comes back to a script getting frozen in Firefox. Or Firefox deciding to freeze because I have too many tabs open. I can’t close them if I can’t read them! Add computer tweaking to the list of things to do.

Cleaned up the folder and I give up on the paper search. If I can’t make one of those four work, I got bigger issues.

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The BookWorm

Friday, October 03, 2008

Number Crunching 129

Quicken Cash Flow = -19.97
STEF Total = 53.45

Quicken has been updated and matches my online account totals.

Some times, it feels like I can’t win. Maybe I should look at this as a successful detail: it must be working because Murphy has moved in! So how do I charge Murphy rent?

Everybody else turned off my automatic payments when I made the arrangements for the past dues of September. The lone exception was GMAC Mortgage. They never mentioned that their set-up meant I had to turn it off through the website, I assumed it was off, so imagine my alarm when I went home on the first and saw an email happily proclaiming that my October 1st payment had been applied to my account.

Call GMAC Mortgage and all they can tell me to do is A) turn it off and B) put a stop payment on it. Get through the website last night. But there’s no way online to put a stop payment. So I had to wait until 8:30 am on the 2nd and pay $25 so I don’t get slammed for $387 plus another $25 in overdraft fees.

Maybe I should recommend a reduction in the stop payment fee, $20 instead. The whole point was to avoid an overdraft after all, and financially they match.

But what really hurts was how soon it happened after I declared no more fees. Granted $25 compared to $382 is a significant reduction, but it still hurts and I should acknowledge that.

I also had to make a withdrawal from the STEF to pay for another tank of gasoline.

Plans for next week
  • Call AT&T about a cheaper phone plan
  • Avoid bank charges.
  • Avoid vending machine expenditures.
  • Brake check for car Saturday Oct. 11
  • Upgrade computer battery backup
  • Upload budget spreadsheet to Google Docs
  • Reduce bill spending to 63.39% of gross monthly income.
  • Apply to Wal-Mart
  • Finish Your Money or Your Life
  • Finish Internet project so to go live
  • Unsubscribe from Big Fish Games
  • Contact Atmos about budget billing
  • Analyze the stubborn mule comment
  • Call phone number on letter for my deferment form
  • File paperwork
  • Call Sonnier Chiropractic. for what Datapath needs
  • Need to add PayPal and Revolution Money Exchange accounts to Quicken and October spreadsheets

I know, I know, the goal is to leave money in the envelope and toss it to the wind, but I’m trying to work around the stubborn mule inside of me who throws a spending tantrum upon hearing can’t. – Number Crunching 125

Spending tantrum – maybe I should ask my mother if I was prone to throwing them when I was younger? Did I channel it all to finances or didn’t act out enough as a child. The first money memory Suze Orman’s exercises dug up were spending tantrums, followed by guilt because you know a tantrum is a stupid and inexcusable way to behave. I was told “no” and snatched whatever I wanted off the shelf in an act of defiance. But like a tantrum only hurts the kid beating the floor, my spending only hurt me.

Does this mean I’m a masochist after all?

Well, now that I have that particular quirk identified, I can nip the spending tantrums in the bud. Which leads back to Your Money or Your Life, because I have better things to do with my money acting out against an imaginary adversary. I left off the last review at the discovery that “money = life energy.” So now it is time to head into Step 2.

Step 2 A). Establish the actual costs in time and money required to maintain your job, and compute your real hourly wage.

The authors warn that most people use this equation to discover what they trade one hour of their life energy for: “Earn $440 a week, work 40 hours a week, so one hour is traded for $11.” (59) It’s not that simple. You have to add all the extra time spent supporting the job and subtract the money spent supporting the job. To show you, how the real equation goes, I’m using my real numbers:

Time and Money Spent on JobHours/WeekDollars/WeekDollars/Hour
Basic Job(no adjustments)40651.2016.28
Expensive toys+5-1.79
Job-related illness+1-84.36
Total adjustments+47.75-303.18
Job with adjustments87.75348.023.97

My real hourly wage is $3.97. Roughly every dollar spent equals 15 minutes of life energy.

Step 2 B). Keep track of every cent that comes into or goes out of your life.

The authors repeat that step over and over again. Record every cent in a daily log every day. Don’t take leeways, don’t round numbers, don’t judge your spending.

Granted, I have been doing this haphazardly off and on for the whole year. I fell off keeping the daily log back in February, but I save receipts until they go into Quicken. So it’s mostly my cash purchases I lose track of. I restarted keeping the daily money log last week, but for the rest of the steps I am going to use the numbers and categories established in September.

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The BookWorm

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Please for the love of EVERYTHING

Some NSFW language, listen with headphones if there are impressionable ears around.

Okay, that counts for my five. ;)

Also added, a white man taking on the ugly specter of racism in this election. Yeah, this one hits home because I was just called crazy by my relatives for planning on voting for the black man. (:p It changes every week what I'm crazy for but politics is a new one.)

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The BookWorm

The Supreme Court Meme

In an upcoming interview with Katie Couric to be aired this week, Sarah Palin is unable to name any Supreme Court Case other than Roe v. Wade.

The Rules: Post info about ONE Supreme Court decision, modern or historic, to your blog. (Any decision, as long as it’s not Roe v. Wade.) Flisters, please take the meme to your blog to spread the fun.

In fact, it’s “any Supreme Court case other than Roe with which you disagree” that Palin was/is/will be unable to name. I’m going to talk about this one anyway. (By Erin: Palindrome)

It’s a great meme. Um, doesn’t it not count if you don’t really know the name of the case? Because Louisiana’s death penalty for child molesters just got declared unfair or something. Only murderers can get the death penalty was the verdict, but I’d have to do some research in order to know “who vs. who” title.

But see, I already feel smarter than Palin because I knew about this one! I could tell Katie Couric about it, even if I’d have to admit to not knowing the “who vs. who.” Can we just vote already, please?

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The BookWorm