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

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