Monthly Archives: May 2009

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The Cookie Monster ate my baby...This the first guest post ever on PIAC — it’s not that I’m against doing them, I just wouldn’t know who to ask…

Now that I think about it, though, I think frequent commenters Dustin and Heather could definitely post some real valuable information!

Anyhow, let the guest post begin…

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PIAC Factoid: Duncan Smurf is only 5 days old. I’m not certain that that makes him the youngest blogger in the world but he can’t be far off.

Hopefully, in the days to come, he’ll have more to say.

And hopefully I’ll find the time to say more too!

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Building my Credit.So let’s see how much all of the recent well documented credit troubles — limits, rates, and closed accounts — have affected my own credit.

Right now, I only know for a fact that my credit limit was cut in half on that one Bank of America account last month.

I called it a financial assault.

It hasn’t resulted in any financial hardship but it did bruise my ego some.

I’ll get over it.

Anyhow, the last time I did this was in December (when I asked if I was in for a rude awakening as the crumbling economy had been nothing but good for my credit card accounts), so here is how things stand now:

Bank of America Business MasterCard
Originally an MBNA account before they were bought out by Bank of America, I opened this account in March of 2005 when I started to divide my personal and business expenses and keep track of them separately. Turned out to be a great move as it was shortly there after I realized how much money I was bleeding on business expenses. I do not carry this card, but automatic payments are set-up for my monthly business expenses.
Current Balance: $0
Credit Limit: $26620 (No change)
Rate: 9.9% (No change)

CitiBank AT&T Universal MasterCard
I opened this account in April of 2007 utilizing a 0% for 12 months offer. I wrote a $6000 check to myself, which I originally dropped into my ING Direct savings account to jump on the “arbitrage” bandwagon. Shortly afterwards, I pulled the money out to finance the siding project. Now paid off, this is the only card I carry in my wallet for things like gas.
Current Balance: $0
Credit Limit: $9500 (No Change)
Rate: 16.990% (up from 9.960%)

Chase Bank Visa Card
This was one of my first credit cards. I opened the account in 1998 and it was one of the cards that I ran up a considerable balance on before I got my act together. The highest it ever went was $12905 and that was in October of 2005. By August of 2006, I’d eliminated the balance, but continued to use the card for gas and the occasional purchase. Balance was always paid in full each month. In June of 2007, I took advantage of a 4.99% for the life of the balance offer to fund the siding project. I don’t carry this card.
Current Balance: $0
Credit Limit: $19200 (No Change)
Rate: 13.24% (Down from 13.99%)

Bank of America NHL MasterCard
Another of my original credit cards originally opened through MBNA in 1997 for a free t-shirt. This is also another card that I ran up a 5-figure balance on. In May of 2004, it topped out at $10915. By November of 2005, I had wiped the balance out. Now I have my internet service provider automatically bill to this card each month, and like clockwork, I pay back the $42.95 automatically on the same day using an autopay set up from the MBNA days. I do not carry this card and have not carried a balance since November of 2005.
Current Balance: $0
Credit Limit: $14000 (Down from $27400)
Rate: 15.99% (Down from 17.74%)

Bank of America Platinum Plus Signature Visa Card
Originally opened in March of 2005 as a failed plan to use balance transfers to consolidate balances at a lower rate. At first I transferred $5000 to this card. Evidently, not having learned my lesson the first time, I transferred another $5000 to this card in March of 2006. Luckily the rate was only 6.25% for both transfers. I wiped out the balance, which topped out at $6925 in March of 2006, in January of 2007. I do not carry this card and haven’t used it since September of January of 2007.
Current Balance: $0
Credit Limit: $15400 (No Change)
Rate: 13.24% (Down from 14.99%)

LendingTree Bank of America GoldOption Loan
This was a loan for $10000 I took out in December of 2002 to, again, consolidate a few balances and put some much needed cash in my hands. At the time, it was LendingTree.com that found me the loan at 9.9%, and when the big check made out to me came in the mail, it was from MBNA. After a couple years of paying it down in regular $226 intervals, MBNA sent me a credit card attached to the account and started treating it like a credit card. With each month, the rate would rise another half percent or so. Not cool. I made my final payment in March of 2005 when the rate had climbed to 13.24%. I do not carry this card.
Balance: $0
Credit Limit: $13700 (No Change)
Rate: 12.99% (No Change)

Hmmm… Seems that that one Bank of America account was the only one that was targeted. Yeah, it was my card with the highest limit, but I’d have thought that they would have slashed (or even closed) that Signature Visa Card account that I haven’t even received a statement for in nearly 30 months.

Last “purchase” I made on it was in March of 2006 — that’s over 3 years with zero activity. If there’s an account of mine that should be in their sights, it’s that one.

Taking the whole thing in, BoA slashed my limits a ton, Citi jacked my rates a ton, and Chase just delivered good news.

Hmmmm, I wonder which card I’ll start carrying next month…

For comparison sake, here’s a recap of how things have panned out in previous roll calls:

» Jun 2007 : Limit = $98500, Balance = $13026
» Jan 2008 : Limit = $108400, Balance = $8125
» Apr 2008 : Limit = $110820, Balance = $0
» Dec 2008 : Limit = $111820, Balance = $0
» May 2009 : Limit = $98420, Balance = $0

So, in essence, with my total credit line down to $98420, I’m pretty much right back where I was in June of 2007 — the first time I did this.

I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t a little dismayed about falling out of the six-figure club.

At the same time, though, I’m quite happy that I’m not carrying a $13k balance (on the cusp of a $20k balance) like I was back in June of 2007.

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    Don't mess with Jamal.So my wife and I “rented” the Slumdog Squarepants this morning and watched it this afternoon.

    Yeah, yeah, I know, the hype surrounding the movie died out months ago but today, while grocery shopping, we made the spontaneous decision to check the selection in the RedBox machine.

    We don’t frequent the movies — too expensive — but at the same time, we like to be “in the know” when it comes to, well, pop culture and entertainment news.

    See, I know that Kris won American Idol. I also know that Shawn won Dancing with the Stars.

    It only seemed fitting that we actually see the movie that just won 8 Academy Awards… including the big mamma jamma, Best Picture.

    Now I don’t know about you, but I think that to be nominated for best picture, your movie should have some top notch acting in it.

    This one did not.

    The acting wasn’t horrible, like a soap opera on Telemundo or something, but it wasn’t exactly great.

    I think the best actor in the whole movie was little Ayush Mahesh Khedekar… and he’s not even an actor!?

    The acting was right up there with, hmmmm… Rocky? Yep, somehow that won best picture the year that I was born. Yo, Adrienne!!!

    In fact, looking over the movies that have won best picture since then, well, see for yourself…

    Best Picture Winners of the Past 32 Years

    • 1976: Rocky – How did this win? Seriously…
    • 1977: Annie Hall – This somehow beat out Star Wars…
    • 1978: The Deer Hunter – I thought this was a bad video game?
    • 1979: Kramer vs. Kramer – Never actually sat down to watch this one…
    • 1980: Ordinary People – Missed this one too… It sounds kinda boring, no?
    • 1981: Chariots of Fire – Can you say overrated?
    • 1982: Gandhi – Yawn.
    • 1983: Terms of Endearment – This terrible movie came from the executive producer of the Simpsons… I suppose this movie is alright, I just don’t like Shirley MacLain.
    • 1984: Amadeus – I often confuse the movie with the Falco video. Both were pretty terrible — even for the 1980’s.
    • 1985: Out of Africa – Worst. Movie. Ever.
    • 1986: Platoon – Seems that once in a great while, the Academy rewards a movie with lots of machine guns. I can totally respect that.
    • 1987: The Last Emperor – I’ve seen this movie at least 8 times. Each time I think that something might actually happen in it. I’m always disappointed.
    • 1988: Rain Man – I’m a rarity. I hate this movie. Tom cruise is, well, Tom Cruise. Dustin Hoffman is annoying. Really, this movie is just an upper crust Bill & Ted movie — and they won an award?
    • 1989: Driving Miss Daisy – Wow… I mean, really? A movie about driving an old wealthy woman around was the best movie of the year? There weren’t even machine guns in this movie… Really, if Jessica Tandy had an uzi, well, then I might understand the Oscar.
    • 1990: Dances with Wolves – I enjoyed this one. But only because I slept through that whole middle section.
    • 1991: The Silence of the Lambs – I guess this was a good movie. Like Shirley MacLaine, I’m really turned off by Jodie Foster (it’s her voice), though I’m not sure who could have played the character better…
    • 1992: Unforgiven – Sorry Clint, you reached the pinnacle of your career in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly back in 1966. Sure, it was poorly dubbed, but it was better than this disaster of a movie.
    • 1993: Schindler’s List – Who doesn’t enjoy a really good Holocaust movie? Really though, when it comes to modern movies shot in black and white, of which I can only think of two, Young Frankenstein is the better option.
    • 1994: Forrest Gump – This was a good movie. A little campy, at times, but definitely worthy of the Oscar.
    • 1995: Braveheart – I thought Babe (the pig movie) should have taken the crown in 1995 but Braveheart is a pretty good movie to sleep on the couch to when it’s on cable (seemingly every single Sunday afternoon).
    • 1996: The English Patient – I haven’t seen this one. See, I’m the type that judges a book by it’s cover. I also judge a movie by it’s title. Or poster. Needless to say, this one doesn’t interest me at all.
    • 1997: Titanic – People have asked a million times, “Why would you want to see this — you already know the ending…” True, but this was a pretty good movie. Billy Zane’s eyebrows bother me though.
    • 1998: Shakespeare in Love – This one was a little too artsy for my palette. Saving Private Ryan totally should have won based on the first 10-minutes of the movie.
    • 1999: American Beauty – I just didn’t like this one. It was okay, I guess, but worthy of Best Picture? I think not.
    • 2000: Gladiator – Now that’s what I’m talking about…
    • 2001: A Beautiful Mind – And then Russell Crowe goes from a hero to a zero. Lord of the Rings was better…
    • 2002: ChicagoIn my eyes, Catherine Zeta Jones can do pretty much anything she likes and it’s awesome, but this movie/musical wasn’t all that great.
    • 2003: Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King – The worst of the three movies wins the big prize. Go figure. I suspect that they were just making up for their mistake in 2001.
    • 2004: Million Dollar Baby – Clint, you’re too old. Hilary, you’re ugly. And I don’t think I’m the only one who kinda feels sick to my stomach whenever women decide to become boxers. Years ago, I think it may have been the Holyfield/Tyson ear chomping fight, I remember thinking that the female bout on the undercard would be as cool the main event. Then, while watching it, I concluded that it was far more disturbing than entertaining.
    • 2005: Crash – Really? Brendan Fraser and Ludacris? I thought Brokeback Mountain was the big movie of 2005. I was wrong.
    • 2006: The Departed – Leonardo DiCaprio playing a tough guy just doesn’t sit will with me. It’s as if the Backstreet Boys re-united as a thrash metal band or something… Leo’s a good actor, I like him in most of his movies — I’m not indicating that he’s of the Boy Band mold. He’s just not the right guy for a mob movie.
    • 2007: No Country for Old Men – Sorry, movies about drug deals don’t really give me that warm all over feeling. I never saw this one.
    • 2008: Slumdog Squarepants – Um, you’re reading my review right now…

    Even among all of those less-than-glowing reviews, Slumdog Squarepants ranks towards the bottom.

    Anyway, I made it through the entire movie without losing interest or falling asleep, so it wasn’t all bad. (The subtitles were much too small though…and that gave me a bit of a headache.)

    It just seemed a little bit to, I dunno, Tarantino-esque with all of the fragmented flashbacks that were often pretty violent.

    The movie was trumped as the “feel-good” movie of the year — I dunno about that. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone that hasn’t seen it yet but, for me, without the big dance number at the end (that was so out of place, it wasn’t even funny), I can’t say that my spirits were lifted any.

    In fact, I’m certain that my opinion of India has dropped a few notches.

    I’m sure their tourism board is thrilled.

    And do you think the US version of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” operates the same way behind the scenes? It’s almost intriguing to think of Regis Philbin as a ruthless tyrant…

    That might actually make a pretty cool movie now that I think about it…

    But seriously, the movies that win “Best Picture” should be held to a higher standard. They should all be really great movies that stand the test of time and can be watched over and over and over and, well, I don’t think Slumdog is one of those movies.

    But, hey, for $1.06, I can hardly complain…

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    For the record, we also Redbox’ed the latest Batman movie (this overdue pregnancy thing is keeping us cooped up at home) so I can rip it apart all over again.

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    Smurfling is overdue.When I hear the word “overdue” the first thing that comes to mind is the library.

    I’m almost ashamed to admit that I haven’t checked a book out from a library in well over a decade but as a result I’ve never had to worry about paying any fines for returning a book overdue.

    Strangely, the term “overdue” does not come to mind when it comes to my bills.

    Maybe it’s because I’ve never paid a bill that was “overdue”.

    And maybe it’s because if I were in that unfortunate situation, I’d substitute the word “late” in instead.

    Anyway, my wife was “due” yesterday.

    Still, no baby.

    Does that make her overdue?

    I just hope there aren’t any fines levied as a result…

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    PIAC Flashback: The last book that I checked out of a library was from the second floor Chemistry Library in Gordon Hall at Queen’s University back in 1996.

    I was working on a project regarding the idea that time would stop at absolute zero because the electrons of an atom would cease to move at that temperature.
    Gordon Hall
    That’s right.

    I was working on a time machine.

    Can’t say I didn’t tell you I that was Brainy…

    Keyword being… was.

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    Plastic Penguin ChickYesterday my wife and I visited a mall that, well, a mall that isn’t in our area.

    They say that pregnant women are supposed to walk around, so that was the plan. We weren’t there to shop, really… We were just going out to window-hop a bit and do some people watching.

    To make it a bit more exciting than usual, we decided to hit a mall that we’d only been to once (during one of those Steve & Barry’s excursions.)

    Change of scenery… And, my, was it ever a change of scenery…

    See, when we go to the mall we have this game that we play. Some people have celebrity crushes, my wife and I have “counts” at shopping malls.

    Basically, if you see someone that can only be described as “Hottie McHott” hot, you utter the number. Not like a rating or anything, it’s just an incremental count.

    Sometimes we even point potential “winners” out to one another. One thing is for sure — my wife knows the “look” that I like and I’m pretty happy about that…

    On a typical shopping trip, I usually reach five or six.

    Evidently my wife has more stringent requirements than I have as she rarely exceeds two.

    My only instant disqualification results from the sight of Ugg boots.

    I just don’t get it. They’re called “Uggs” because their ugly as hell. Why would you wear something ugly on purpose? It’s an obvious character flaw…

    A woman I used to work with used to defend them, tooth and nail, claiming that they were “soooooo warm and comfortable…” as if that made up for their exterior shortcomings.

    It’s a decent argument, I suppose, but I think most people out there wearing them are doing it strictly for style and you know what? In another 10 years, they’re going to want to burn (err, delete) every photo of them ever wearing them.

    And really, I’m pretty sure that the Snuggie is soooooo warm and comfortable as well but I have yet to see someone wearing one at the mall.

    And I’m pretty certain that I never will…

    Anyway, so we’re taking a lap around this mall and we’re both holding steady at a zero count.

    It’s not like we were there super early and it was just some AARP mall walking team in there with us either — it was pretty crowded. Everyone was just, well, either ugly or weird.

    And, yes, some girls were wearing Uggs even though it was over 70 degrees outside. I’m telling you, they’re all about style… (Please let this fad die…)

    So as we’re leaving and heading back out to the car, my wife asks how high my count got…

    “One. And she was plastic…”

    Eva, my favorite Old Navy SupermodelquinFor real, she was plastic.

    And I’m not talking about some blond, spray tanned, silicone-enhanced cougar either…

    The best looking woman in the entire mall, no question, was the Old Navy Supermodelquin named Eva.

    She had this green bathing suit on that fit her perfectly. I wasn’t even turned off by the metal post that came out of the back of her calf…

    How sad is that?

    Somehow I don’t think we’ll ever be going to that mall again…

    (For the record, on this trip, my wife’s count was also one. But at least her’s was a real person.)

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    Nice Parking Job...
    I’m not sure if it’s just a consequence of driving a small car or if it’s just that HUGE American truck owners don’t know how to drive…

    My wife and I were still in the car when this dude pulled in to the spot in front of us. I couldn’t believe it.

    While it may not be noticable in the photo, he’s about 3-inches from the hood of my car… and a good foot over the yellow line painted on the ground.

    Granted, I drive small cars that don’t take up an entire parking spot but I like to think of the extra space on all sides as a space cushion of sorts.

    Protection for my vehicle, you know?

    But for whatever reason, there’s always a pick-up or SUV (and it’s ALWAYS a pick-up or SUV) that uses my car as a guide for where to park rather than the lines painted on the pavement.

    I’ve had a front grill smashed this way so I’m usually very selective when it comes to parking. You know, against a curb, next to a minivan with sliding doors, or way off to the side and no where near the entrance…

    On this day, though, I just parked among the masses as it wasn’t very busy.

    And then this jerk pulled in. Way. Too. Far.

    He didn’t hit me, thankfully, but his door did touch the car next to his when he got out.

    What a jerk.

    I know I already called him that but he deserves it.

    In hindsight, I shoulda left a post-it on his window with the message, “Hey, I almost stole your clearly visable GPS unit but you parked so close to that GEO Prizm next to you that I couldn’t get your door open…”

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    Paying the MortgageAfter last month’s success at curbing my spending, I think I thought that I was going to give it another go this month, and then the month after that.

    Kind of easing into the whole new “family” situation gracefully… (by the way, still nothing to report.)

    But this morning, I tossed that idea.

    I’m going to attack my debts again.

    I’ve done it before and I’m convinced that I’m better at paying stuff down than I am at saving up so… that’s what I’m going to do.

    The only debt still on the books is the mortgage.

    As of this morning, I owe $104659.21 to the former Countrywide Home Loans (now Bank of America).

    Falling back on my tried and tested weekly payment method, each Friday from here on out, I’ll be making a payment of $230. This will be in addition to my regular mortgage payment.

    My trusty $1.89 calculator indicates that this plan will knock off over 1% of my mortgage balance every single month.

    The more reliable amortization calculator on BoA’s website tells me that this puts me on schedule to pay off the mortgage in October of 2014 — 18 years early and just 5 years away.

    Now I know what you’re thinkin’…

    It’s either, “Wow, this guy has a ton of disposable income” or “Shoulda bought a bigger house…

    It’s actually a little bit of both, I guess, but I’m not fooling myself… I bought well below my means so that I’d have a lot of disposable income. I’m aware of that.

    And I doubt that I’ll be able to stick to this aggressive payment plan until October of 2014 — I don’t expect to have this much disposable income indefinitely — but I have the ability now and I’ve shown that I’m not the greatest at saving money so this seems like the smartest thing to do with it…

    And if I’m successful, I’ll be mortgage free in my 30’s… and probably semi-retired before my kids are even out of elementary school.

    That’s more appealing to me than any amount of disposible income OR a bigger house…

    Bank of AmericaSo all of this talk on the news about people losing their credit has finally hit home.

    Apparently, based on the date of this notice I received from Bank of America, I was financially assaulted on April 24.

    Seems that they held off on mailing the notice out, though, as I just received this on Thursday or Friday (and I only opened it this morning.)

    Notice from Bank of America regarding my account.

    Given the size of your credit line and the way you have historically used your account, we have adjusted the credit line on your card to $14,000.

    Looking back on my last Credit Card Roll Call from December 2008, my credit limit on this particular card was $27,400.

    A ridiculous limit — no question. But they cut it in half?!

    I’m not really upset as I haven’t carried that card in my wallet since 2005, though I’ve still put my monthly cable bill on it since that time just to make it appear to be an “Active” account to the credit card company.

    I do feel slightly violated though. I mean, back in 2004, I carried a $16,000 balance on this exact card. For months…

    Historically speaking, I’d say that proves that I do indeed need a higher credit line than the one they’ve “adjusted” me to.

    And they claim that the decision was based in part on a credit report that they pulled. I find that a little upsetting too.

    First, the fact that the pulled a credit report — not to offer me something but to take something away that they’d already given me. Sorry, that rubs me the wrong way.

    And though this was probably just a soft pull and won’t affected my credit score at all, the lowering of my limit by so much most certainly will.

    It also baffles me a bit because I’ve seen my credit report and what I saw shouldn’t have resulted in this.

    According to Experian, I have 17 open accounts, all in good standing, and not a single account with a late payment. They also listed that I’m a pro at carrying HUGE balances.

    Listed alphabetically, my BMW Financial Services account was right up top. How many people do you know that can afford not to carry a huge balance on a BMW ? I’m certainly not one of them.

    Though most my accounts were holding steady at $0 when I last pulled it, the credit report also listed when and what the high water mark was for each account — and it wasn’t that long ago that nearly all of them were well over 5-figures.

    Basically, between 2004 and 2006, I was pretty deep. “Historically” speaking, that wasn’t a very long time ago.

    Of course, though, the notice from Bank of America states that they based the information on an Equifax credit report.

    They’re the only agency that I haven’t seen my credit report for because, well, their website sucks.

    Figures…

    Can You Dig It?

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