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Posts Tagged ‘money’

Just a quick note here, but I sat down to balance my checkbook tonight and look over the remaining monthly bills. Due to some chronic medical issues, I have been off work for almost a month now, and my savings are thus depleted severely.

So I gazed up at the computer monitor to review my checking account transactions. I must admit, it was like Dorian Gray looking at his portrait! I was horrified and traumatized at the same time. LOL!

Sad but true, the numbers don’t lie anymore than his portrait did. Even so, sometimes we have to face the ugly and awful truth and just deal with it.

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fruit

Royalty Free Photo by Bill Longshaw courtesy of Free Digital Photos

I love summer for a variety of reasons. Being financially obsessed as I am, the top reason I love it are the Farmer’s Markets! Living in a cold, northern region as I do, at no other time throughout the year can I get the same great price deals on so large a quantity of food.

The appearance of the Farmer’s Market is a good boon for the local consumer, no matter what. Even if you choose not to stop and see what they have to offer, (though shame on you if you do not), it means the local stores also have to lower prices in some areas to stay competitive.

You still have to savvy of course. Here’s an example: yesterday I stopped in at the Farmer’s Market and got a great deal on potatoes. (No lie – $0.75 for a 10-pound-bag of russet potatoes.) How awesome is that? Its the first time I have ever seen that many potatoes for so low of a price. They weren’t malformed, half rotted, or anything else to make them less of a good deal.

However, at the same market they also had watermelon for $5. Now I already knew from my shopping earlier this week that the local grocery store was selling watermelons for $4. I could have taken the $1 difference hit, but the grocery store was on my way home anyhow. So a dollar not spent today is one more dollar I have for tomorrow. It may seem small, but it can add up.  On a shopping trip for a week’s worth of groceries, little differences like that can add up to savings of $10, $20, $30 or more.

So keep your eyes open, shop around and appreciate the economic value of the local Farmer’s Markets, whether you choose to shop there or not.   🙂

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Its not worth it!

Its not worth it!

I saw a post on Twitter the other day saying, “Why does it always come down to money?”

But the tweeter had a point. Because nearly everything in life eventually hinges on money and/or the lack thereof. Whether its a question of taking a vacation with the kids, remodeling or repairing your home, feeding your families, or putting gas in your car, it boils down to the almighty dollar.

It’s been said often enough, “Money makes the world go around.” Society and cultures all around the world revolve around a currency system of some kind. If its not paper and coin money or credit, then its a system of barter and trade. There is no free anything. Something of value is always taken from one source and given to another.

Unquestionably, the world and society as we know it does revolve around money (in one form or another).

I am reminded of the bible passage that says, “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of Heaven.”

Truth is that it is just as easy to develop an obsession with money from the absence of it, as it is from an excess. People who never have enough money always want more and think about what they would do if they had it. People with excessive amounts of money don’t want to be parted with it. With the exception of lottery winners and random acts of chance, most wealthy people became that way because they understand the real value of the dollar and are loathe to spend it.

They may nickel and dime the rest of us to death, but it explains how the real path to wealth is paved: through the appreciation for the value of saving and the willpower to do so.

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What’s your magic number? (I am not talking abracadabra here.)

What I mean is, if you won the lottery today, what is the dollar amount it would take to buy your freedom from debt?

As I sat down to do some bill paying last night, that was the question I posed to myself. The current price of my freedom amounts to $20,863.21 to be precise. *Deep sigh*

I firmly believe the road to debt hell is most often paved with credit cards and good intentions.

How did I get in this deep? Let’s break it down:

Various credit card debt (i.e. store cards, etc.) = $2,613.34

Old student loans (years later and they are still moaning like zombies on the hunt) =$4,640

Consolidation loan from previous debt = $9,975.85

Loan for kid’s graduation and college trip costs = $2,028.78

401k loan =$1,605.24

Since I don’t anticipate winning the lottery any time soon, I will have to find alternative means of obtaining my magic number. Will it be from a second job, thrifty e-bay sales, or the sudden appearance of a genie in a bottle?

I will keep you posted. 🙂

 

 

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Here’s the scoop

Two days ago I logged onto the website of my prepaid cell phone service provider.  I checked my account balance to find it at $11.70.  My plan charges per day and I don’t like taking the risk of getting my balance too low without realizing.  The interesting thing is that within five hours later of checking my account, the balance dropped to .05 cents.  That’s right, five cents! Over the course of five hours I lost over ten dollars of credit on my account.

Was it really my fault?

 Did I access the internet ask?  Did I send some mega-sized messages? Did I go on a random calling spree that was outside my plan? The answer is “No” to all three. 

 I didn’t do anything.  Which is why I was concerned when a couple hours after checking my balance I got a text from my service provider that my account had dropped below $5 and I should add more money soon. 

Excuse me

 How odd I thought? I had just checked it a couple hours before and seen the $11.70 balance.  But rather then getting alarmed I figured I would check it again.  When I logged on, the balance read $2.95.  WTF?

 Yeah I did a serious double take! Obviously I wanted to know the details before I called up the company and started ranting.  So I reviewed the history of my phone usage to see what the charges were.  I went through 26 screens of usage history (most of which was gobblegook and made little to no sense) and suddenly it informed me that my balance was .05 cents. 

Their fingers went a little too deep into my pockets

 It seems that over that course of time, the company had randomly assessed a charge of over ten dollars for something they termed “Data Packet”.  I called the company and the friendly representative said, “Hold on, I will have another department look into that for you.” After a few minutes he came back to tell me my account had been credited back for the amount in question, with no real explanation for the reason of the charges, and that was that. 

The real danger

 I am glad to have gotten the money back without a battle.  But the real danger was this: what if I was enrolled in an automatic replenishment plan? 

 If my account was set to withdraw money from my bank account and refill my balance whenever it drops below a certain point, I might never have known what happened.  Further still, what if it continued to happen on a regular basis, and they just kept withdrawing from my account and replenishing until I realized.  If this happened three or four times in the span of a day or two, it could have really added up.  Even worse, what if I was waiting on a paycheck and ended up bouncing a check or getting overdraft fees because of these types of glitches?

 Needless to say I will continue to monitor things for myself and keep a sharp eye on my charges in the future.  

(*My apologies to my readers for my recent absence but I was fighting a stomach virus for over a week and have just recently been getting back on track with things.)

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Who reads receipts anyway?

I can’t tell you how many times I have gone shopping at the grocery store and told them to toss the receipt.

To me, a receipt was nothing more than extra paper to be thrown away later.  I didn’t want to bother.  As for checking the receipt, who had time for that? I already knew what I’d bought, so why look at it again.

Reality check!

I know, even I am slack jawed at my own naiveté!  It is almost painful to think how unblissfully ignorant I have been when it comes to finances and frugality.  But this morning I had a real wake up call in “the value of keeping receipts” department!

On my way to work I stopped at the grocery store to buy a couple last minute things for the day. I picked up a yogurt cup, a bottle of juice, a snack bag of pretzels, and a lunchable. I was paying with a debit card and in my haste, I never even looked at the cost of the groceries! I just swiped the card, grabbed the bag with receipt inside, and walked out.

WTF?

Once I got to work, I took a minute to log onto my bank account to check the numbers and balance my checkbook.  Low and behold, it was then that I saw a charge from the grocery store for $14.62. WTF?

Since when should it cost over $14 dollars for one of each: yogurt, juice, pretzels and a lunchable?  Since never!   Breaking with my own tradition, I fished the receipt out of my bag to double check.  And this is what I saw:

The “clincher” was that this particular store doesn’t give you cash back on purchases with a debit card ~ ever! I knew the cashier hadn’t given me anything but the groceries and a receipt.  No money that is for sure.

Lessons learned

Thankfully they were nice about it and refunded me the extra I’d been charged. But what if I hadn’t looked? If I had waited two or three days to check my bank account and balance the checkbook, I would have seen the $14 charge and never questioned it. I would not have remembered what I bought at the time, and I would have assumed it was right! I wouldn’t have double checked the numbers on the receipt that’s for sure.

Reformed!

I am a receipt slacker no more! I have been transformed.  Never again will I casually toss the receipts without a second thought, nor will I hastily agree to pay whatever number the cashier says without doing my own mental calculation.  I have joined the world of receipt checking adults everywhere who prefer not to lose anymore money than they already have too, thanks to overpriced goods. (But that is the stuff for another article.)

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“Have you ever played Roulette?”

My significant other posed this question to me not long ago. At the time I said yes, thinking of a drunken incident on New Year’s Eve long ago (we won’t discuss details). But it occurs to me now that for years I have been playing Roulette with my finances. Sometimes it’s been a total gamble from month to month and/or week to week, as to how I would get by and which bills would get paid.

Playing the wheel of fate

I would realize that only so much money was available, (let’s say $900 for the sake of argument), and there would be a stack of bills overdue (perhaps totaling $1300 just to give it a number). At this point, I could randomly draw from the deck and let fate decide which creditors got the cash and which ones got the “check’s in the mail” bluff for another month. I am ashamed to say that for awhile I did exactly that.

It all adds up, your not buying yourself time your digging the hole deeper

Of course the late fees, ($30 here or $45 there), would add up on the unpaid bills. I don’t know why I was clueless to this at the time, except that I was living in a constant state of denial. This continued until I had to apply for a loan just to finish covering my monthly living expenses. In hindsight I’m surprised it didn’t happen sooner, but its amazing how talented you can get at juggling (even without clown training).

Trying to make it right

Then I realized that I had to stop letting my decisions ride on fate’s spin of the wheel. I had to sit down with all the bills, prioritize them, organize due dates, and make phone calls on the ones that couldn’t be paid in order to negotiate better terms, perhaps a deferment for the month or whatever I could manage.

Getting there

It hasn’t always been successful, and I still ended up falling into the payday loan trap for awhile. But there is no way to get out of the deep hole of debt unless you start paying your way out, one bill at a time.

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